Primary Source

Soccer Ball Assembly Using Child Labor

Boy pictued with soccer balls


This photograph of a boy stitching together the parts of a soccer ball was taken in Pakistan in 1998 to document the use of child labor in manufacturing soccer balls and other athletic equipment in South Asia. In the upper right hand corner of the photo, a young girl is also working. Working long hours after or instead of school, child laborers suffer back injuries from crouching over a wooden device that helps tightly hold the pentagonal tiles that make up the surface of the ball. Child laborers also suffer cuts from the waxed cord and needles used to stitch the pieces together. The city of Sialkot in Pakistan, a center of mass production for sports equipment for more than a century, produced three out of four match-grade balls used in the world in 1998—a $200 million dollar export industry for the city, according to a CNN report broadcast in April 1998. Sialkot came to the attention of consumer groups and sports journalists during the late 1990s, for the city’s extensive use of child laborers producing brand-name sports equipment for the largest multi-national corporations globally. Use of child labor is especially ironic since soccer is such a popular game for children worldwide, and a staple of youth recreation programs. In order to avoid boycotts of their products, a campaign of public awareness sought to assure consumers that the balls were not produced by children and that adult laborers were paid a fair-wage. While the soccer balls included labels stating that they were made without the use of child labor, photographs reveal that the labels were actually attached to the balls by child workers. Large companies have escaped responsibility and visibility by using middle-men as contractors. Since the 1990s, the industry has shifted to other locations, including northern India, and continues to employ child laborers. This photograph is part of an extensive International Labour Organization archive that documents child labor around the world.


"Young soccer-ball sewer," Reference nos. c0865 and, c0857; Photograph by G. Cabrerae, 1998, © International Labour Organization (ILO) at (upper) and (lower); Text information from “Pakistan soccer ball industry seeks end to child labor,” Kasra Naji, CNN, April 9, 1998 at (accessed November 1, 2009). Annotated by Susan Douglass.

How to Cite This Source

"Soccer Ball Assembly Using Child Labor," in World History Commons, [accessed July 23, 2024]