Sunday 14 January 2024, 22:15

FIFA Foundation-supported youngsters meet FIFA Legends in London

  • Children training with Bloomsbury Football meet quartet of FIFA Legends in London

  • Grassroots charity welcomes over 5,000 youngsters a week, regardless of football ability or financial status

  • Group from initiative invited to Monday’s The Best FIFA Football Awards™

FIFA Legends have met football-loving children who are getting the chance to play their favourite game in London thanks to the support of the FIFA Foundation. Italian futsal star Francesca Mannavola, former Italy women’s team captain Patrizia Panico, FIFA World Cup 2006 runner-up Claude Makelele, and ex-Colombia international forward Juan Pablo Angel played with children during their training session run by Bloomsbury Football. Bloomsbury Football is one of 114 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) worldwide supported by the FIFA Foundation Community Programme in 2023. Each NGO can apply on an annual basis for funding of up to USD 30,000 to help support football-related projects which aim to bring about positive societal change.

Bloomsbury Football welcomes over 5,000 youngsters aged 18 months to 18 years old from across London on a weekly basis. The grassroots charity provides them with the chance to hone their social and life skills as well as those they need on the pitch, regardless of their ability to either play or pay. “We need to give children access to football. You don’t need a lot: a pitch, boots, a ball. You see them enjoying it, it makes me happy. This is how I started too,” said ex-France international Makelele. “My advice to them is not to think about the future. Take everything step by step. The work of the FIFA Foundation helps the children understand they can achieve the dream they want, that everything is possible.” “All of these events are great, giving boys and girls the chance to learn life skills through the game. This is what it’s all about,” said Angel. “It’s a chance to spend time with their friends, interact with other kids, to learn through sport the values life is probably going to expect from them. You see their parents, they have to work during the week, so this is an opportunity to do something together. There are so many positive things they can get out of it.”

FIFA Legend Juan Pablo Angel pictured with kids at Bloomsbury Football

The FIFA Legends saw some 50 boys – members of Bloomsbury Football’s U9, U10, U12 and U13 teams – train on pitches in central London before interacting with the participants. “The presence of the FIFA Legends is amazing, because they are role models, and are a strong element in the advocacy role of football,” said Christine Misteli of the FIFA Foundation. “For the children here, it’s about getting inspired by the Legends and learning from them, but not only about football. The focus is not the technical aspect, but more the essential elements like respect, teamwork, and other values the Legends will give them.” A group of the children who play at Bloomsbury Football have also been invited to attend The FIFA Best Football Awards in London on Monday, getting the chance to see some of the game’s biggest names in the flesh at the annual ceremony, which honours the stand-out figures in football.

 FIFA Legend Francesca Mannavola plays with children at Bloomsbury Football

For CEO Charlie Hyman, who founded Bloomsbury Football in 2018, the partnership with the FIFA Foundation is invaluable for his organisation to continue making a difference in the lives of thousands of children through football. “We can’t do the amazing work we do without the very generous support of organisations such as FIFA and others,” he explained. “We currently work with 5,000 children a week. Our plan over the next five years is to work with 20,000. It’s ambitious, and to get anywhere near that we’re going to need lots more generous support. “We’re really grateful, and hope that we can continue to build on the partnership. Obviously, for the young people here today and their parents, to be honest, they’re incredibly excited to have these Legends here. It’s always great to be recognised for the great work we do, and provide that inspiration for these kids.”

Did you Know?

The FIFA Foundation Community Programme recognises and capitalises on football’s ability to make a real impact on the lives of millions of underprivileged children and young adults across the world. As well as health and enjoyment, it also provides community and companionship – and I’m proud to once again be launching the call for applications to this wonderful programme. I encourage organisations in this sphere to apply and help us to help you make a real difference through football.” The programme seeks to engage NGOs in a variety of initiatives that contribute to good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, no poverty, reduced inequalities, peace, justice and strong institutions, and the promotion of decent work and economic growth. NGOs are encouraged to showcase how they use football to tackle social issues and bring about positive social change. The comprehensive selection process involves strict eligibility criteria and requires organisations to submit an extensive range of supporting documentation in the areas of finance and child protection.

FIFA Foundation Community Programme

FIFA Foundation