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Sporting goods firms fight child-made soccer balls

February 15, 1997

ATLANTA (AP) _ The image of thousands of Pakistani children stitching soccer balls for as little as 60 cents a day has spurred sporting good giants like Reebok and Nike to team up and stop the practice.

The World Federation of the Sports Goods Industry and the American-based Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association pledged Friday that major ball makers will no longer buy Pakistani soccer made by children.

The agreement requires soccer ball companies to divulge the names of contractors and workers to independent monitors who will inspect assembling sites to enforce the agreement.

``We see this as a major contribution to the growing tide against child labor around the world,″ said Warren Feek, a spokesman for UNICEF. ``We want to work make child labor as unacceptable in the next century as slavery is in this century.″

Pakistan produces 75 percent of the 30 million to 40 million soccer balls sold in the world every year.

Child welfare organizations estimate that 7,000 to 10,000 Pakistani children under 14 stitch balls in homes and small shops, receiving little pay and working up to 10 hours a day.

Friday’s agreement calls for the creation of a $1 million fund to educate children who lose their jobs. Although the agreement was commended by child advocates, some questioned whether the education money would be enough.

``If good alternatives are provided, these children in Pakistan will obviously be generally happy about doing something else,″ said David Husselbee, director of Save the Children’s Pakistan office. ``But it’s important to look at family income and how it can be maintained at present levels.″

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