Wednesday 24 August 2022, 06:00

FIFA Football for Schools funds development project in Belize

  • Belize becomes the fourth Concacaf nation, and 14th worldwide, to adopt the FIFA programme

  • 48 educators from all over the country took part in the workshop

  • The programme director, Fatimata Sidibe, attended the official launch

Cree en el proceso (Believe in the process) is the motto of the Belizean Football Federation (BFF), which has taken another important step in its development project by launching Football for Schools, a FIFA project that aims to reach thousands of young boys and girls by using football as a social development tool within the school curriculum of the countries that implement it. The official ceremony took place in Belize City on Monday 15 August. In attendance were, among others, Fatimata Sidibe, Football for Schools programme director; Marlon Kuylen, member of the Executive Committee of the Belizean Football Federation; Rodwell Ferguson, Belizean Minister of Young People, Sports and Transport; and Francis Fonseca, Belizean Minister of Education, Culture, and Science and Technology.

“This programme doesn’t only benefit participants from a footballing point of view, but also allows them to develop life skills. It’s important that we instil these principles in our youngsters from an early age so that they can stay committed and disciplined and follow a more beneficial path, both for themselves as people and for our country as a whole,” said Marlon Kuylen, who could not hide her delight during the official launch. 48 educators from all over Belize attended the three-day theoretical and practical workshop, which was brought to a close on 17 August with a festival at the BFF’s headquarters in the capital, Belmopan. Among those who happily battled against the elements to be in attendance was former Colombian international and FIFA Legend Juan Pablo Angel, who joined in with activities before gladly agreeing to a photo opportunity with other attendees.

According to the Colombian, “The origins of the programme have nothing to do with those who will go on to become professionals or football players, which is the small minority of these boys and girls. It’s about having fun, enjoying spending time and sharing experiences with friends, and learning sporting values. These are the real benefits of these types of programmes.”

The BFF also hopes that Football for Schools will help to develop the game in the country by enabling women to play football from an earlier age, for example. Iris Centeno, Director of Women’s Football at the BFF and Football for Schools educator, told us: “Many parents believe football is for men. When you are young, all you ever hear is that only boys should play [football] because they are stronger and that you will hurt yourself.

"By bringing football to primary school, all these girls will be able to learn about the sport from a younger age, with teachers and coaches who are fully trained to coach and look after them. We will definitely see more girls playing football as a result.”

Alexandre Gros, Project Leader for Football for Schools, helps to contextualise the programme: “The philosophy of the programme is to acknowledge and understand that the large majority of the boys and girls that take part in a physical education class using this methodology will neither be professionals nor make a living from football, but rather will become citizens of this country.

“The more teachers who encourage football to be played in schools or as an extra-curricular activity, the more the programme will prosper. It may also be easier to achieve widespread participation through inter-school competitions. This would benefit the BFF because there would be more players, who would then join clubs and play for the [Belize] national teams.” Earl Jones, Secretary General of the BFF, believes that the programme will mark a beginning and an end: “With our motto ‘Believe in the process’, we ask that the country [as a whole] and stakeholders believe in the project that we are carrying out, that they believe in the gradual steps that we are taking to ensure that young boys and girls in the country benefit from a long-lasting legacy through the development of football.”