Wednesday 18 October 2017, 16:12

Disabled children learn life skills through football

  • 26 Non-Governmental Organisations from Russia and Europe gathered in Moscow for workshop organised by FIFA and adidas

  • Organisations part of FIFA’s Football for Hope initiative exchanged experiences and best practices

  • Effective training sessions can bring out positive social changes in lives of disabled children

It is well known that playing football brings enjoyment and improvements to one’s health, but children who play this sport loved by millions are able to learn key life skills as well. It is particularly important to ensure that disabled children can also benefit from these qualities that football can bring, such as communication, team work, adapting to new circumstances, independent decision-making and many others.

To address this, many Non-Governmental Organisations around the world are using football training sessions to change the lives of children for the better. However, it is clear that disabled children require a special approach and coaches are faced with the question of whether to use the same methodologies developed for players at football academies.

Programme managers of NGOs in this field have gathered in Moscow for a Football for Hope adidas Exchange Programme workshop, in order to better understand the requirements of disabled children and improve the training process. This programme is the result of FIFA’s efforts with its partner adidas to provide training to NGOs worldwide since 2009. It allows organisations working with disabled children to exchange experiences and tips necessary for effective work.

“Football is a very strong tool to help young people improve their lives in many ways”, explains Irina Schlossarek-Dhowtalut, FIFA Football for Hope Programme Manager. “Thus, we are very glad to have been able to organise this workshop in Moscow together with our FIFA Partner adidas and our host organisation Downside Up. It allowed representatives from 26 Football for Hope eligible organisations in Russia and Europe to exchange on how to best deliver football-based programmes for differently abled children.”

Effective training for disabled children As part of the three-day workshop, the organisations learned about each other’s approaches and the best practices of teaching football to disabled children, as well as being able to try out these lessons for real. Training sessions were held between the workshop participants and children with Down’s syndrome, for whom it is especially important to carefully explain the exercises and give visual examples.

The charity Downside Up has been the recipient of FIFA's support and recently intensified their efforts to get children with Down's syndrome in Russia involved in football.

"At first, a lot of parents were skeptical, so strong is the myth that children with Down syndrome cannot engage in team sports," says Irina Menshenina, Development Director of the charity Downside Up. Now, though, no one doubts that this is possible, and many even call us to ask about football. For us, this workshop is especially important, as we’ll have the chance to draw on the experience of our foreign colleagues on how best to train the children."

The parents have confirmed that playing football has helped their children develop new skills.

"Football has influenced all aspects of our life," says Mila Kirillova, the mother of ten-year-old Nika, who has been playing football for a year and a half. Football is a team game, where you need more than just physical skills. Children learn to listen, to execute their coach’s instructions and to interact with each other. With Nika, it’s brought about a lot of positive changes, both in terms of communication – she now speaks more with other children – and self-reliance, because she has to constantly make decisions on the pitch."

There are hundreds of community organisations around the global that are active in delivering social projects through football across the globe. In 2017 and through its Football for Hope initiative, FIFA is continuing its support of such community projects in all regions of the world. Thanks to the adidas Exchange Programme, community organisations are able to swap ideas and bring about positive social changes in the lives of disabled children.