Tuesday 20 February 2024, 12:00

Football for Schools now active in half of FIFA's member associations after Sierra Leone launch

  • The Football for Schools (F4S) programme launched in Sierra Leone on 5-7 February

  • Fifty educators from all over the country took part in the event

  • 50% of FIFA Member Associations have now signed up to the programme

Building on the momentum of an intense and fruitful 2023 – a further 71 FIFA member associations introduced the programme - the FIFA Football for Schools programme and its team have set off again on the road to meet schoolchildren eager to learn through football. There is still a long way to go, as F4S has set itself the goal of contributing to the development and empowerment of almost 700 million children around the world. But a symbolic step was taken in Sierra Leone, which became the 107th FIFA member association to join the programme. With FIFA comprised of 211 member associations globally, F4S is now halfway through its ambitious mission to make football more accessible to young people by integrating football-related activities into the education system. This milestone was reached in Africa where Football for Schools is proportionally the most represented, with 70% of the continent’s member associations having already implemented the programme.

To mark the occasion, fifty physical education teachers from Sierra Leone's 16 districts met in Makeni, around 200 kilometres from the capital Freetown between 5-7 February. Under the guidance of F4S experts, the teachers were able to learn the rudiments of the programme during the first 48 hours. They subsequently put the theory they’d learned into practice on the final day, joined by 125 children, who were ready to make the launch of F4S in Sierra Leone a real celebration. "Football for Schools is a unique programme in that we teach football and at the same time, we teach the children life skills," explains Antonio Buenano Sanchez, FIFA Football for Schools Manager, who delivered the sessions alongside colleague Melvin Mendy. "We give them the keys to teamwork, respect, communication and leadership, so that they progress not only on the pitch, but also off it” he continued.

"As for the educators, they are the ambassadors of the programme. We trained them over the course of three days. Once they had been introduced to both theoretical and practical concepts, they are now ready to cascade the training down. In other words, their role is to pass on what they have learnt to other teachers throughout the country. These educators are essential to us, and we call them master trainers.”

To date, more than 3,000 educators have been trained worldwide and tens of thousands of children have benefited from the programme. These figures are set to further grow exponentially, with F4S ensuring that every nook and cranny of every country visited is covered. It is no coincidence that Makeni was chosen as the starting point in Sierra Leone. "Kicking off F4S here in Makeni shows that football is global and belongs to everyone," says Antonio Buenano Sanchez. Makeni is far from being the biggest town in the country, but it is a hotbed of football. Local team Wusum Stars are one of the legendary bastions of Sierra Leonean football. It was therefore fitting that Wusum Field, where The Northern Rock - the team's nickname - regularly plays, was the location for 125 children to be able to imitate their heroes on the pitch. Friendly matches and exercises with and without balls were on the programme for this historic day for Makeni.

"Developing football among young people is a priority objective, and schools are a fantastic way of achieving this," explains Harold Johnson, vice-president of the Sierra Leone Football Federation. "We are therefore delighted to be able to launch F4S. It's an important step for us, but it's only the beginning. It's all about sustainability. A chain has been established and now we need to make sure that it grows; that more teachers and children join the movement." In essence, that ‘chain’ embodies the whole spirit of F4S. A chain that aims to circle the globe. It's already halfway there!

Football for Schools