Commentary

Santiago Halty's Fair Trade Quest

Interview by Mike Woitalla

Santiago Halty, founder of fair-trade soccer ball company Senda Athletics, is the first subject of the Soccer Business Insider's new profile series on American soccer's movers and shakers.

Backstory …
In college, I learned about fair trade and how it improves the lives of people who make our products. I studied abroad in the last year and a half, first in China and then in France, and that’s when I decided to unite my passions for fair trade and soccer. I started Senda Athletics in 2010 to make fair trade soccer balls and support non-profits that soccer to improve communities.

Soccer Background …
I was born in the USA but raised in Buenos Aires and started playing soccer when I was 4 years old. I was a River Plate fan and when I was 12 I started going to all the home games and became a club member, which allowed me to watch practices. These were the days of Enzo Francescoli, Pablo Aimar, Javier Saviola … When I went to college in the United States, playing pickup soccer was how I made most of my friends.

How Senda can competitively price its products while maintaining good working conditions for the workers ...
We do pay more for our products to make sure the workers have better working conditions. But the fact that we’re fair trade does not mean people cannot afford our products. The key is we don’t have the expenses that large companies have that pay huge sums for endorsements. Instead of going after a well-known player to endorse the product, we use that money to pay people a fair wage and we use some of it to support non-profit organizations using soccer to improve their communities here in the U.S. -- and that gets people excited about what we’re doing. … If our ball does cost 15 or 20 percent more than a non-fair trade ball, it’s justified by the quality of the ball.

How Senda ensures its products are made in good working conditions ...
We work with a non-profit called Fair Trade USA, which certifies producers of coffee, tea, sugar, chocolate … with large brands like Starbucks, McDonald’s, Dunkin' Donuts, Ben and Jerry’s. Fair Trade USA works with their supply chains and they show up at factories unannounced any time they want.

Making Balls …
Last year I visited Sialkot, Pakistan, and spent 10 days with the workers at the factory where Senda balls are made. I worked alongside them. … It was very difficult. Making sure that all the panels are aligned. Doing the stitches, then pulling, tying the knots. Everytime a panel is stitched you have to make a special knot to make sure it’s tight enough so the ball will be solid and the stitches won’t show. It’s a lot of work and the people who do it take a lot of pride in it. Watch video clip HERE

The American soccer market will continue expanding like it has the last 20 years ...
There’s so much more room for the game to grow. I think we have to do a better job at the younger ages, letting the kids fall in love with the game -- don’t push them too much so they get burned out and leave the sport at 12 or 13. … We’ll see more older people playing longer, in their 30s, 40s and 50s. … We’ve got the growing Latino population. … And there are other versions of soccer with huge potential to grow, like beach soccer, futsal. In Argentina we grew up playing futsal, a fun and easy way to play the game that can be played on basketball or tennis courts. The soccer culture will keep growing.

The importance of the growth of MLS ...
I think it’s crucial. We need to support the local league. Everybody likes to watch EPL, La Liga, Serie A, and the Bundesliga is becoming more popular. But opportunities for young players here depend on MLS. I’m a San Jose Earthquakes season-ticket holder. We have to support MLS and go to its games, and support the women’s league as well.
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1 comment about "Santiago Halty's Fair Trade Quest".
  1. Ronald Kruse, June 12, 2013 at 6:38 p.m.

    I am doing everything i can as a youth coach to help the kids develope a love for the game. Trying to let players play and guide them along the way seems to be seen as weakness by most parents and club directors but i can tell you it is even harder to develop traing sessions that are truley fun and also developing the players ability all the while letting players play! i really try and let the players solve the problems that are constantly presenting themselves in a match or training. As a coach that never played organized soccer as a youth, only street ball of every kind including soccer, its seems to be even harder for me to convince adults, esoecially my previous technical director of what i was doing! i believe my perspective is very uniuqe because i was developing a love for this game right along with my players. I am taking a break from coaching for the summer but will be back because of the comments and things like Santiago is doing!

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