Sunday 22 January 2023, 13:00

Football for Schools kicks off in Thailand

  • Thailand becomes ninth Asian country to embrace the Football for Schools program

  • 30 local coach-educators and 100 children were involved over three days

  • Pilot phase will last for a year involving 60 schools from four different regions

For Thai football, the past week was especially eventful. The national men’s team won a record seventh title at the 2022 AFF Championship and FIFA President Gianni Infantino paid a visit to the Land of Smiles, during which he inspected projects and facilities supported by FIFA’s Forward program. Furthermore, a group of local female coaches began their AFC A Diploma course, supported by FIFA’s Women’s Football Division. Last, but by no means least, FIFA’s Football for Schools (F4S) project was launched on Friday 20 January.

Joint efforts

Launched in 2019 by FIFA in collaboration with UNESCO, Football for Schools is a program aimed to make football accessible to both boys and girls across the globe by incorporating football activities into the education system. Pathumthani, a central province north to Bangkok hosted the launch across three days between 20-22 January, involving 30 local coaches and 100 youngsters.

Conducted by three FIFA experts, FA Thailand General Secretary Patit Suphaphongs, Department of Physical Education (DPE) General Director Dr. Niwat Limsuknirun, FIFA Director Football for Schools Fatimata Sidibe and FIFA Legend and former England defender Wes Brown were also all in attendance, offering their expertise and support. In her opening day speech, Sidibe thanked the President of the Football Association of Thailand, under the Patronage of His Majesty the King for their commitment in recent months to prepare the launch. "Thank you for your commitment in realising not just our dreams, but the children’s dreams. The implementation of this project will ensure that this becomes a permanent fixture. Through the smiles of the children and the dedication of the coaches who will deliver Football for Schools, we can witness a very bright future ahead."

Echoing her was Thai FA Technical Director Carles Romagosa, who looked to the F4S Thailand project with high hopes. "Sixty schools from different regions across Thailand are taking part in the F4S initiative," he said. "But our ultimate goal is to cover every province soon. We want to provide both boys and girls with a secure practice setting so they can develop globally.”

Solid schedule

Over the course of the three days, attendees received a wide variety of presentations. Among them, F4S Managers Alexandra Huete and Antonio Buenano Sanchez introduced the app, which has been adapted in the Thai language. The application is a tool which includes hundreds of hours of videos tutorials of football sessions and educational messages for children aged between 4 and 14. With the help of FIFA experts, the local coaches learned not only how to train the kids on the pitch, but also how to educate them as teachers off it.

"Thailand is the third country in Southeast Asia to join F4S, and the 9th in the AFC region after Lebanon, India, Qatar, Mongolia, Guam, Indonesia, China PR and Cambodia," added Sidibe. "To accompany this process, FIFA – as well as developing the app - has delivered more than 38,900 footballs to schools across the country, along with financial support to complement the implementation of the program." A pilot phase will last for twelve months, with 60 schools from four different regions invited to take part. "If the implementation process goes well, the number of regions in Thailand will increase to 12 next year, and to 24 in two years. A total of 360 schools” concluded Huete.