Monday 26 June 2023, 08:00

Passion all the way as Football For Schools launches in Albania

  • Football for Schools programme launched in Albania on 21-23 June

  • Nearly 200 students and 116 instructors took part in the event

  • Albania is the 60th member association to sign up to the programme

“All of you know well the importance of serious work, passion, commitment and of giving every talent a chance on the greatest stages of all, and your recent successes are clear proof of that,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino to the Albanian Football Association (FSHF), on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of its joining FIFA, on 14 May 2022.

Those words have taken on extra meaning in the year that has passed since then, with those same ingredients coming together in the rollout of the Football for Schools programme in the Land of Eagles in late June. Judging by the number of people taking part in it, the event proved to be a success in itself.

Giving a chance to every talent just happens to be one of the main objectives of this programme, which involves giving girls and boys the world over greater access to football by making it a part of their school day. Albania’s inaugural F4Sevent was attended by nearly 200 children aged 8 to 14, who received the sound advice of 116 trained instructors.

“It’s vitally important that children in this country are involved in football,” explained FSHF Secretary General Ilir Shulku. “Playing this magical game helps make them better and healthier citizens. It’s clear that there are some future stars of Albanian football among these youngsters.”

Shulku then addressed the 116 instructors: “You have been vital to the creation of this programme. Thanks to your willingness and passion, you will help these youngsters work as a team and you will bring life to this project.”

A series of theory-based classes and practical sessions on the pitch were held over the course of the three days, with learning and enthusiasm the name of the game. In conjunction with PE teachers up and down the country, the 116 instructors will have the job of applying the programme, with the aim of making sure that as many Albanian students as possible get the football bug.

“It’s one of the best experiences we’ve ever had,” said Ardian Gega, a PE teacher from the town of Kucove, in south-central Albania. “We’ve had the chance to talk to colleagues and learn a lot from the FIFA instructors. The three days have been very productive. It’s an initiative that will definitely help us to identify young talents in our schools.”

An official project launch ceremony was held on the opening day of the event at the Shtepine e Futbollit, the FSHF’s new headquarters, the construction of which was partly funded by the FIFA Forward programme. Aside from the children, instructors, Football for Schools coaches and FSHF dignitaries, representatives of the Albanian Ministry of Education and Sport were also present at the ceremony.

“I wish you every success,” said Deputy Minister for Education and Sport Endrit Hoxha. “I hope that you give all your heart, passion and desire, while bearing in mind that these children are tomorrow’s young hopefuls. I would like to thank FIFA for having made available all the resources needed to make this project happen. It is free for Albanian families, which lends even greater value to the programme. My thanks to FIFA, the Albanian Football Association, and all the teachers and children. I hope this project runs for a long time.”

Football for Schools is very much an ongoing initiative and has now been rolled out across no fewer than 60 FIFA MAs, with other countries such as Bhutan, Australia and Ghana set to join the movement in the coming weeks.

“Football for Schools is more than just a football programme,” Antonio Buenano Sanchez, an F4S manager, told the instructors. “It’s an ambitious project that changes the lives of children around the world. It delivers practical skills in the education and development of children, encouraging a positive and enthusiastic approach.

“Today is the first stage of this marathon in Albania and I would like to encourage you to continue making every possible effort to give these children the best possible education.”