Tuesday 15 November 2022, 15:00

Mario Yepes: Football needs to provide a ‘bridge’ towards our children’s education

“The challenge we have, especially in our countries, is to change education. Football plays a very important role in helping the children in those continents to grow, not only through sporting education, but integral education as well.” We live in uncertain times beset by conflicts and global crises. The world is divided. The FIFA World Cup, through the power of football, will bring people together to cross borders, unite and celebrate together. Football Unites the World will be a global movement that serves to inspire, unite and promote development through football. Some of our FIFA Legends have shared their stories of how football has brought their respective countries together in times of uncertainty.

With the big kick-off for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ just around the corner, we catch up with Colombian defender, Mario Yepes, to talk about both the past and future of the competition. Mario Yepes is one of Colombia’s most emblematic players, having clocked up no less than 102 appearances for his national side to become the fourth most capped player of all time. He also had the honour of leading the team out as captain at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, a World Cup event that marked their return to the tournament after a 16-year absence.

“The whole process of entering the stadium was really incredible. I remember it so clearly. We were playing our first match against Greece. We got to the stadium, went out on to the field for warm-up and the stadium was packed out with Colombian supporters. Playing in a foreign country and still being surrounded by your own fans was amazing.” Competing in the group stage also gave him first-hand experience of how it feels to be part of the great cultural blend that so characterises a World Cup, “We were part of a really diverse group that included Japan, Côte d'Ivoire, Greece and, of course, Colombia. So, there was a team from each region, from each continent. It was great, I really enjoyed that World Cup.”

Mario Yepes vs Dimitrios Salpingidis

However, for Yepes, the joy of football needs to extend beyond the action that takes place on the pitch during the big competitions, "I believe that the role football can play in the future, as it does now and must continue to do, is to become a form of integral education." He views the sport as being fundamental to providing young people from less privileged backgrounds with better opportunities for personal development under the guidance of well-trained coaches. “Football needs to provide a ‘bridge’ towards the education of our children. And the best way to educate them is for their coaches to be well-trained. FIFA and football have the huge responsibility of training the people who are going to be teaching our players."