By Ken Reed

FIFA’s World Cup games are watched by millions of people around the world. That’s impactful as the games excite and inspire fans, especially the young variety. As a result, more children are likely to play soccer, or play more often, which will benefit their physical and mental health.

However, in the poorest and most remote areas of the world, people aren’t able to watch (or listen to) World Cup games. They often don’t have soccer balls to play with, even if they want to. And those who do have soccer balls often lack access to effective coaching.

Into this void steps FIFA’s “Football For Schools” project. The goal of this initiative is to get soccer balls to 700 million elementary school children around the world, the majority of which are in poor, remote regions of the globe. The plan is to touch half of the world’s children, ages 4 to 14. The program has an initial budget of $100 million from FIFA. In addition to Adidas soccer balls, the program includes a free cellphone app with soccer training drills and teaching information. The app allows a teacher, or any adult, to develop practice sessions for kids, no matter how limited their soccer background may be.

Football For Schools “is the most important project in the world of football,” according to Steve Pila, who is managing the Football For Schools rollout in South Africa. “Even a teacher in the most rural area is able to take young boys and girls together and, at the palm of your hand, you have something to do with them.”

An added bonus is that via a partnership with UNESCO, the United Nations education agency, the app also includes a life skills program.

It’s a great project and FIFA deserves kudos for developing it. I’ve certainly been critical of FIFA’s corrupt actions in the past but in this case, they are using “sport for good” with this new soccer/life skills program.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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