Thursday 29 February 2024, 08:00

Football for Schools sparks reflective discussions in Doha

  • Seminar on implementing a digital monitoring and evaluation system for FIFA Football for Schools was held in Doha on 26 and 27 February

  • Panel of experts came together to discuss the programme in detail

  • Over half of FIFA’s member associations have now signed up to F4S

After stops-offs in Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, the FIFA Football for Schools (F4S) initiative concluded its tour of the Middle East in February with a visit to Qatar. In Doha, however, the aim was not to launch the programme locally – that had already been done successfully, in 2022 – but to consolidate its achievements, assess the progress made and set up a digital system capable of monitoring and evaluating it. The workshop, which was held on 26 and 27 February in the Qatari capital, brought together a panel of experts from 13 FIFA member associations, UNESCO and Generation Amazing. The F4S programme is at the halfway point of its mission, which is to make football more accessible to girls and boys worldwide by boosting the education system via sporting values. Of FIFA’s 211 member associations, no fewer than 107 have already got involved in the Football for Schools adventure.

“The organisation and content of this seminar speak for themselves, demonstrating the commitment we all have to this sport and to future generations around the world,” said Mansour Al-Ansari, General Secretary of the Qatar Football Association, in his opening remarks. "Sport and education go hand-in-hand: they share many essential principles that are in keeping with the objectives of this forum.” The Qatar Football Association is known for its active approach in this area: a female-focused Football for Schools seminar was previously held in the country – which hosted the last FIFA World Cup™ – in October 2023. “We are committed to playing an important role in the region, and across the world, making a direct and positive contribution by providing millions of children with the opportunity to learn and excel in football,” added the General Secretary.

This time, the discussions focused on the potential impact of the F4S programme on the 40 million children around the globe who have already benefited from it, and on pinpointing the most appropriate tools and approaches for measuring the impact within the 211 member associations. In a symbolic move, representatives of member associations made the journey from all over the world to share their experiences and reflect collectively on how to optimise the programme. “This is the first time that we’ve brought together representatives of national associations in this way to think about how to implement a digital monitoring and evaluation system for the Football for Schools programme,” explained Fatimata Sidibe, who has been F4S Director since 2022. “Monitoring and evaluation are a significant hurdle for all project managers. It's easy to roll out a programme, but rather more complicated to measure its impact.” She continued: “Football for Schools has tools for evaluating and monitoring results and quantitative indicators, but we didn't have the ability to assess the programme's impact from a qualitative standpoint. The ultimate aim is to facilitate the work of the national associations with a simple, user-friendly monitoring tool that does not add to their workload. That’s why F4S decided to have an interactive discussion with the representatives of the member associations from all six confederations during this seminar, so as to put forward a solution suitable for the FAs and for FIFA, to measure the impact of life skills on children.”

DOHA, QATAR - FEBRUARY 27: FIFA Football for Schools Global M&E Expert Panel Workshop on Februray 27, 2024 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Vinod Divakaran/FIFA)

This is the first time that we’ve brought together member associations in this way to think about how to implement a digital monitoring and evaluation system for the Football for Schools programme.

Fatimata Sidibe
FIFA Football for Schools Director

To this end, 13 associations from the six confederations agreed to work together with FIFA and its partners, UNESCO-IBE and Generation Amazing, to conceptualise this approach and define an “in-house solution”, which will be translated into computer language by FIFA’s technology teams. A digital monitoring and evaluation system will therefore be implemented in Puerto Rico and Guyana (Concacaf), Tonga and Fiji (OFC), Moldova and Latvia (UEFA), Saudi Arabia, India, Guam and Qatar (AFC), Malawi and Namibia (CAF), and Paraguay (CONMEBOL). This approach aligns with FIFA President Gianni Infantino's vision of making football truly global and seeing the resulting changes in children's lives. It also matches up with the directives of FIFA Chief Member Associations Officer Kenny Jean-Marie, who welcomed the F4S team into his department.

“UNESCO-IBE is delighted to be able to support the Football for Schools programme, as it enables life skills to be passed on through football,” said Mallorie Trannois, Partnerships and Coordination Officer at UNESCO-IBE, which is based in Geneva. “Life skills are now talked about across all sectors. In some countries, they are even included in the school curriculum. “So either a country hasn’t incorporated them into its national curriculum, and Football for Schools and UNESCO will help them to demonstrate the need and rectify that, or a country has already incorporated them, and the programme will make it possible to gauge their impact, thereby helping these countries to identify monitoring mechanisms. UNESCO-IBE's role will be to measure life skills in these curricula.”

Diana Bulgaru, Head of Grassroots at the Moldovan Football Association, was effusive in her praise for F4S and the seminar. “More than 350 Moldovan schools have already been introduced to this programme, which involves both primary and secondary schools,” she said. “This programme has several benefits. In particular, it allows everyone – everywhere – to play football. And it provides teachers with some extremely useful learning tools. Over 600 teachers use the F4S app in our country. So it's already been a success. “That said, there’s still a long way to go, and this seminar was an effective reminder of that. It has helped all of us to understand the obstacles that each country is facing, and how they can overcome them, so that each association can make the most of the programme in the future.”

Bryan Joseph, the Guyana FA’s Technical Development Director, had an equally positive reaction to the experience. “The seminar was extremely beneficial,” he remarked. “It gave me a better understanding of Football for Schools and everything that the programme entails. The workshop has put me in a better position to achieve the F4S objectives back in my country, and even help other countries to do the same. “Talking to other associations about what's working well and not so well, exchanging views on the issues and challenges involved, and brainstorming about solutions have all helped us to take a step forward, and will enable us all to get as much as possible out of this programme.” The next step in this important exercise will be to test out the digital monitoring and evaluation tool, once it has been developed by FIFA’s technology division, in the 13 participating associations, so that lessons can be learned and conclusions drawn prior to a full-scale roll-out.

Football for Schools