Tuesday 04 July 2023, 16:00

Football for Schools a success in Bhutan

  • Football for Schools launched in Bhutan

  • Average altitude in country close to 3,280m

  • Around 100 participating pupils and 38 educators

FIFA’s Football for Schools (F4S) programme is aimed at making football more accessible to boys and girls around the world by incorporating the values of football into education. More than 60 member associations from all four corners of the world have implemented the programme since it was launched in 2019. The most recent member association to do so was Bhutan.

“This programme creates a bridge between footballing skills and necessary life skills,” said Yeshey Dorji, who is in charge of the grassroots football division at the Bhutan Football Federation. “The children learn through football. We teach them values relating to fair play and help them manage their feelings and stress.” “The life skills component of the programme has been organised into four categories,” says Fatimata Sidibe, Director of Football for Schools. “The first relates to children learning about themselves. The second is about building relationships with others. The third is about how the child relates to the wider world. And the fourth focuses on health and well-being.”

Bhutan on the up

On 30 June and 1 July 2023, 38 educators met in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, a country nestled in the Himalayas. The educators attended a two-day meeting to learn about the programme that they would implement across the country. The programme was officially launched on 2 July at Changlimithang Stadium and attended by around 100 children between the ages of five and 12. If the smiles on everyone’s faces were anything to go by, the event was a resounding success.

Success was far from guaranteed for this mountainous country of 740,000 inhabitants. At an average altitude of almost 3,280m, the country seems ill-suited to football. But Football for Schools has to be adaptable, as it seeks to contribute to the education, development and empowerment of around 700 million children. And Bhutan, despite the Himalayan terrain, is unequivocally football mad, as shown by the enthusiasm generated by the event. Bhutan has been a member association since 2000 and football has been developing continuously. In the last two years, football development has even accelerated, with the construction of a new football academy for boys in Changjiji, with FIFA Forward funds, and a number of women’s football seminars taking place in Bhutan. The proof is there for all to see: the senior women’s and men’s teams are both climbing their respective rankings. This virtuous circle and the Football for Schools programme will no doubt see Bhutan rise even further.

“The Bhutan Football Federation has made an enormous effort in recent years to develop football both in terms of infrastructure and training coaches,” said Fatimata Sibide. “Football for Schools is bolstering that effort by teaching life skills through football and helping young people in Bhutan to become better citizens.” “As the Bhutan Football Federation President said to his team, the programme aligns with His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s vision regarding teaching life skills,” she added. “The 38 educators, who received training from FIFA instructors Alexandra Huete and Antonio Buenaño, will then pass on their knowledge to 280 colleagues across Bhutan. I have no doubt that they will rise to the challenge, as they are excellent coach-educators.”