Sunday 27 August 2023, 22:00

FIFA schools programme supports Barbados FA deliver ‘Better Football for a Better Life’

  • Barbados is the latest FIFA member association to host a Football for Schools festival

  • Educators from several neighbouring countries gathered in Bridgetown

  • Around 90% of the children taking part had never played football before

Barbados was the latest country to host a FIFA Football For Schools (F4S) festival last week, bringing together a number of Caribbean member associations who had joined the F4S family, following a successful regional workshop in Jamaica in May. In addition to the host country, representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and the Turks and Caicos Islands gathered at the Barbados FA headquarters in Bridgetown for a variety of activities and courses designed to strengthen the education system through the values of football.

It was the first time that educators from multiple countries had simultaneously taken part in a F4S capacity-building course, and it was also the first time that a Football for Schools festival had brought together so many children who had never previously played football. Indeed, around 90% of the children were complete beginners. After a good hour's practice however, all the nervous and worried faces had become cheerful ones, despite the heat and humidity. "At first, some were reluctant to play because they didn't want other children to make fun of them," says Alexandra Huete, FIFA Football for Schools Manager. "But after working together through sessions, such as 'improve with practice' and 'good communication', we could hear cries of joy and see new groups of friends had emerged.

"The fact that there were so many beginners made this festival quite unique," added Antonio Buenaño, fellow FIFA Football for Schools Manager. "It was quite a challenge, because we wanted to make this first involvement as fun as possible for the children, so they’d want to come back for more.” Barbados has an abundance of talented male and female players who are often unable to develop their skills properly due to a lack of infrastructure and qualified coaching, a situation to which the Football for Schools programme is providing concrete solutions.

The other major difficulty faced by parents and educators is the lifestyle of children, whose meals are often too rich in salt, refined sugars, cholesterol and fats. These factors were also reflected in the F4S programme. "The benefits of having this Football for Schools event in Barbados are immense," said Amanda James, Secretary General of the BFA. "It has allowed us to highlight in a relevant and fun way the many virtues that football can offer, both on and off the pitch, and that can benefit the individual throughout their lifetime."

"The BFA's motto sums it all up: 'Better football for a better life'. This fits perfectly with the Football for Schools philosophy of teaching life skills through football sessions," added Alexandra Huete. "It gives all the world's children, from every continent, and every walk of life, the opportunity not only to play football but also to learn essential values through sport, such as respect for others, citizenship, mutual aid, communication, self-awareness and how to take care of their health," Fatimata Sidibe, FIFA Director of Football for Schools concluded.