Thursday 19 September 2019, 10:11

CAIS changing lives through Street Football Project

  • CAIS aims to help those suffering from extreme poverty and social exclusion

  • Portuguese initiative uses the power of football to promote inclusion

  • Street Football Project partly funded by the FIFA Foundation

Promoting social inclusion is the mantra of CAIS. Since 1994 the initiative has been dedicated to supporting marginalised members of Portuguese society – namely those without basic housing – and improving the living conditions of those suffering in extreme poverty. In order to achieve this, one of the many schemes CAIS engages in is football.

Partly funded by the FIFA Foundation, CAIS’s Street Football Project – which has been going strong for 15 years – uses the beautiful game as a tool for social change, promoting personal and social development to make people at risk of exclusion feel included in society.

Through football, CAIS strive to help socially vulnerable youth feel a part of everyday life, furthering their personal and social development, enabling them to learn new skills and stressing the importance of equality, opportunity, citizenship and social participation.

"We have been able to promote greater access to sports practice and the development of the personal and social skills of all those involved in the project,” said Goncalo Santos, Coordinator of the Street Football Project. "We also represent Portugal in a series of international events, including the Homeless World Cup and the FIFA Foundation Festival."

CAIS’s work has touched many men and women in Portugal through football. The likes of Aurio Castro, who grew up in a neighbourhood overwhelmed by violence, drugs and extreme poverty, have been able to change their lives for the better.

"Football helped me personally in the sense that it allowed me to meet other people and develop my skills," he said. "I made friends, I interacted with society outside the neighbourhood."

CAIS’s Street Football Project is divided into two parts with the core ethos being the development of personal and social skills:

Access to Sport

  • Local and national street football tournaments – with the national competition reaching over 1,000 participants – all promoting inclusivity, with the chance of representing Portugal at the Homeless World Cup.

Inclusion through sport (two initiatives)

  • Move Sessions: football training together with social skills sessions, working to promote personal and social skills in informal environment.

  • Move Yourself, Make It Happen: in partnership with the National Plan for Ethic in Sports and the Youth in Action Program which strives to empower professionals (social workers and coaches) and further develop personal and social skills with the participants. There were over 500 participants in 2018.

"I think the Street Football Programme can be a way to achieve good, because when we play football, we forget about problems,” said Castro. “We are focused on the game, we want to be in a good mood and play happily.”

CAIS is one of a number of organisations supported by the FIFA Foundation's Community Programme.