Sunday 03 July 2022, 03:00

FIFA’s Football for Schools programme kicks off in Paraguay

  • Programme set to reach 100 schools across the country during initial phase

  • 30 local trainers participated in the workshop given by FIFA

  • Senior government and FA attended the launch event

Paraguay became the second CONMEBOL country, and the eleventh worldwide, to launch a Football for Schools (F4S) programme, an initiative of the FIFA Foundation that aims to help the development of millions of children worldwide. "The idea is to make football more accessible to them by incorporating football activities into the school curriculum through physical education classes as taught in each country," explains Alexandra Huete, FIFA’s Football for Schools Coordinator. "Among its objectives are the promotion of targeted life skills through football, and the training of teachers so as to make the project sustainable in the long term by strengthening collaboration between governments, football associations and schools. In the case of Paraguay, the goal is to be in around 100 schools in this first phase," she adds.

Huete headed up the FIFA team which gave a part-theory, part-practical workshop to 30 national training coordinators from 13-15 June. On the final day, those coordinators imparted their knowledge to more than 100 children at an event that served as the programme’s official launch in the country. Among the football and government officials in attendance were the president of the Paraguayan Football Association (APF), Robert Harrison, and Paraguay’s First Lady, Silvana Lopez Moreira, underlying the broad support for and strategic importance of the newly launched programme.

The 30 national coordinators – 15 women and 15 men – were jointly chosen by the APF and the National Sports Secretariat. Huete considers them "fundamental to the success of the programme", as they will be ultimately responsible for instructing educators on how to use F4S app and impart the programme lessons to students of participating schools.

Among the 30 coordinators was Epifania Benitez, who coached Paraguay’s national team at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup France 2018™, and today is in charge of the U-17 women's side. "It’s essential to use the power of football to strengthen certain values in boys and girls. This programme gives us additional tools, like the app, to do our job better. Now we must take advantage of them," says Benitez, who took part in the first FIFA Coach Mentorship programme as a pupil and is currently participating in its second edition as a mentor.

Former Paraguayan international Julio González addresses the participants during the FIFA Football For Schools workshop

Among the FIFA team present was former Paraguayan international Julio Gonzalez Ferreira, who has become a role model in resilience. In late 2005, 15 months after winning silver with La Albirroja at the 2004 Men's Olympic Football Tournament in Athens, the former striker had an arm amputated following a car accident. Despite being told he would never play professionally again, he refused to give up his dream and made his return two years later. "Had it not been for what football taught me, I would never have achieved that comeback, nor would I be who I am today," admits Gonzalez Ferreira, who also works with children from impoverished households in Asuncion for the Inter (Milan, Italy) Foundation. His message for the instructors during the workshop was clear: "You can make a difference. Even more so than ability, it is often attitude that counts the most. They need to keep that in mind when passing on the knowledge they’ve acquired here or when working directly with children."

Paraguay’s First Lady Silvana López Moreira and APF's President Robert Harrison are seen with Paraguay’s woman national team during the official launch of the FIFA Football For Schools Program

Also present at the launch ceremony was the entire squad of the country’s senior women's team, who are preparing for next month’s Copa America Femenina, which this year serves as the qualifying event for the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™. The players mingled with young children on each of the nine mini-pitches at the Paraguayan Olympic Committee's ground, making it an unforgettable day for everyone. "The message we want to send through the Football for Schools programme is that football is very important in people’s all-round development because it teaches values," concludes Douglas Martinez, Director of Development at the APF. "This means that, while the programme may not necessarily produce elite players tomorrow, it can help create good people for Paraguay through education."

FIFA Programmes

Learn more...

The FIFA Foundation

The FIFA Foundation was created as an independent entity to help promote positive social change and raise support for the recovery and reconstruction of damaged or destroyed sports infrastructure worldwide.

Football for Schools

Football for Schools (F4S) is an ambitious programme launched by FIFA, in collaboration with UNESCO, that aims to contribute to the education, development and empowerment of around 700 million children.