New Internationalist

Eric

Issue 292

The King and I

Eric Cantona has just abdicated as the King of English soccer. He was the French captain of Manchester United, who won their fourth championship in five seasons and reached the semi-finals of the European Champions' Cup. Cantona has been earning around $32,000 a week from soccer alone, without taking into account his sponsorship and advertising income. His new career options, said to include movie acting and even poetry (he is a big Rimbaud fan), are not yet rumoured to include work with (and funding of) a project helping child labour. Yet...


Sonia is 11 years old and stitches soccer balls. The ball in the photograph bears Eric Cantona's picture and signature, together with the legend 'Eric the King'. She lives in a village near Jalandhar in India's Punjab. She is blind ­ she lost her sight at the age of seven: 'It went completely dark in front of my eyes and I was scared,' she said. 'I didn't know what was happening.' But she has learned to stitch soccer balls by touch alone: her Aunt Satya matches up the panels and passes them to her niece. The two of them are the main breadwinners for the extended family since Sonia's mother fell seriously ill. 'There's no fun in it but I have no choice,' says Sonia, who earns about 7 rupees (about 27 cents) for each of the two balls she stitches in a day ­ not even enough to buy a litre of milk.

THE PREMIER LEAGUE

Biggest importers of sports goods from India, 1995-96

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Thanks to Martin Cottingham and Christian Aid, whose report A Sporting Chance can be ordered from PO Box 100, London SE1 7RT or viewed on http://www.oneworld.net/christianaid

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