Monday 11 September 2023, 19:00

Historic day for Football for Schools in Mozambique

  • Football for Schools (F4S) launched in Mozambique between 7-9 September 2023

  • The programme delighted a record 400 children in Maputo

  • Thousands of youngsters across the country will benefit from the programme

The joy was equal to the expectation. Thirteen years after their last appearance at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Mozambique secured its ticket for the continental event, which will take place in Côte d'Ivoire in 2024. Os Mambas beat Benin 3-2 in their pivotal qualifying match as Clésio Baúque's late winner sent a packed Estádio National do Zimpeto into raptures and left an entire nation united in jubilation. It must be said that football has a special place in this East African country considered to be one of the poorest on the planet. Thanks in no small part to Eusébio, a child of Maputo who became a world football star in the 1960s, the King's game has given rise to many dreams and happiness in Mozambique. The launch of FIFA’s Football for Schools programme in the capital was further modern proof of this.

A few hours before Chiquinho Conde's men took to the field, almost 400 children gathered at the Campo Do Afrin on 9 September 2023. Cheerful, motivated, and driven by an irrepressible desire to play football, the youngsters - boys and girls alike - took part in physical exercises, technical training and matches, under the expert guidance of educators from all over the country and the watchful eyes of Melvin Mendy and Antonio Buenaño Sanchez, passionate instructors from the FIFA F4S team. All the children had smiles on their faces and talent in their feet. "Football unites the world and attracts children," explained Fatimata Sidibe, Director of Football for Schools, a programme supported by FIFA and UNESCO that aims to make football more accessible to girls and boys while strengthening the education system through the values of sport. "There's something magical about seeing hundreds of children flock to the stadium and take to the pitch to play, learn, laugh, have fun, escape and forget their worries," she added. If the qualification of the Mambas remains in the collective memory, it would be the same for this F4S day. With over 90 member associations embracing the programme, never before had so many young people participated in a launch day. A total of 44 educator-trainers - including 17 women - from the country's 11 provinces took part. Some of them travelled nearly 1,500 kilometers to attend the three-day event, which included two days of training prior to the closing festival.

"When FIFA President Gianni Infantino launched the programme in 2019, could he have imagined that it would bring so much joy to so many children? Today it's a reality: F4S meets the needs of the people, federations, and local authorities," continued Fatimata Sidibe.

"The programme combines education and football, offering children learning opportunities during football sessions. It enables them to become better citizens while giving them the opportunity to be spotted via FIFA's Talent Development Programme and, one day, maybe, to become part of football's elite."

Four hundred children took part in the launch day, but tens of thousands more will reap the future benefits of the programme. Each educator has been trained to set up Football for Schools in their respective region. As well as a simple smartphone application, you need footballs. No fewer than 45,000 were sent to Mozambique to facilitate the process. If the children and educators were clearly won over by their experience, so too were the instructors: "Although their lives are not as easy off the pitch, all the children had one common goal: to have fun and enjoy playing the sport they love: football. This sport continues to prove that it can be a vehicle for change," explains Antonio Buenaño, FIFA F4S Manager. "We are very proud of the work done by all the educators who have travelled to Mozambique's capital to take part in the course. They will make excellent ambassadors. Thanks to them, I am convinced that the programme can reach its full potential throughout the country," he concluded.