Ready, Set, GOAL!: 4 Innovative Programs Educating Youth through Football

Kristen Grauer

With the 2014 FIFA World Cup underway, CEI is spotlighting some of the innovative work that our education programs are doing to support young athletes around the world. Even though football is its primary focus, the World Cup also promotes principles of unity, peace-making, and friendly competition.

As the world is engrossed in the excitement, drama, and controversy surrounding the events that unfold in each arena, the competition reminds us of broader global issues regarding health, human rights, and education - specificallythe critical role that sports can play in improving the lives of the world's most vulnerable youth. 

Tackling poverty, inequality, and illiteracy, the following education initiatives from the CEI Database have one goal in mind: to prepare children across the globe with the skills necessary to succeed on and off the pitch.

1. Tiempo de JuegoColombia

Tiempo de Juego helps youth from the most vulnerable and violent communities of Colombia to develop integral social skills and life skills through sports and other recreational activities. Government cost-cutting measures have reduced education budgets, and as a result children spend only half of the day in school, leaving them with unstructured free time and vulnerable to recruitment by gangs or teenage pregnancy. The aim of Tiempo de Juego is to fill up this free time with meaningful recreational activities grounded in the methodology of “Fútbol para la Paz” (Football for Peace), a psychosocial technique for building cooperation, critical thinking, confidence, and other skills necessary to counter negative societal influences. No one is turned away and the activities are free for everyone. What began as one Escuela de Fútbol in 2006 has now evolved into several after-school and weekend programs, including breakdancing, journalism, art, and basketball.

2. YUWA Kicking It New School | India

Yuwa uses soccer as a vehicle to bring girls together in a supportive and safe context, working to increase school attendance and empower and equip them with the life skills they need to pursue further studies, secure employment, and break through social constraints. Unlike a typical soccer program, Yuwa's soccer teams are self-initiated, peer-led, and designed to encourage financial saving and planning. When a group of girls expresses interest in starting a team, Yuwa poses three questions to them: 1) How often do you want to play? 2) What do you need to play? 3) How can you get what you need? While the first question establishes the girls' commitment to the sport, the second two questions initiate a longer planning process that encourages participants to budget for the soccer gear that they need. In addition to encouraging financial planning and independence, the program emphasizes leadership by encouraging peer coaching. Participants are also supported by a full-time female mentor and participate in daily English, math, and science classes.

3. Kampala Kids League (KKL) | Uganda

Kampala Kids League aims to complement the traditional school curriculum by engaging children in sports through a structured sports league. This creates opportunity for collaboration among children from a variety of backgrounds including Kampala’s schools, orphanages, and street children organizations. KKL reinforces the importance of sports in the education system as a means of delivering life skills, leadership skills, social development, play and team building through a structured sports league. The league welcomes children from various backgrounds, from street children to those in private schools in a bid to foster friendships between the children. The organization engages volunteers from the community including parents who are trained as coaches, referees, administrators, and events coordinators. The teams compete in international tournaments such as the Euro Tour 2009 which saw children from the league awarded scholarships to various international sports academies.

4. Moving the Goalposts | Kenya

Moving the Goalposts uses football and peer groups to teach at-risk girls in Kilifi County a range of life skills including leadership, confidence, communication and self-esteem. The program also provides scholarships to girls unlikely to attend or complete school, in early marriages, or that are infected or orphaned by HIV/AIDS. To recruit and create awareness of the leagues, MTG mobilizes teachers, local elders, and county government officials in various parts of the county to introduce the concept and encourage participation as well as to sensitize parents on the importance of a girl’s education. After the teams have been formed, the MTG holds monthly community meetings to share feedback and discuss any issues. MTG uses volunteers and trains them as coaches, referees, mobilizers and peer educators and use the sports convening’s to deliver peer education. The matches are held on weekends, after which the girls are divided into age appropriate groups to discuss various issues including reproductive health, counseling, girls rights, education based on the MTG developed curriculum. Amongst these teams and leagues, the girls also participate in community service, including gardening and visiting the elderly. 

To learn more about this topic, we encourage you to explore the following resources on the CEI website:

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