Children at primary schools in the Ivorian commercial capital Abidjan traded classrooms for football fields last week to take part in a FIFA initiative to make the sport more accessible and contribute to education.
Ivory Coast is the first country in West Africa and the fifth on the continent to join FIFA’s Football for Schools (F4S) programme, launched in 2019 with pilot projects in Puerto Rico and Lebanon. It was disrupted by COVID-19 but has now resumed ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.
The goal is to reach children in the poorest or most remote corners of the world.
Children in yellow bibs and white jerseys practised passes and dribbled between cones under the guidance of FIFA instructors.
“When they play on football fields they banish violence, build leadership (skills) and communicate with others,” F4S manager Fatimata Sow said in Abidjan.
“The Ivory Coast is the…fifth in the CAF region, after Mauritania, Djibouti, South Africa and Malawi,” Sow said.
The programme is run in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and aims to contribute to the schooling of around 700 million children by combining sports and education.
“The workshops … connect football with education. Life, football and technical skills are taught in a session,” said F4S instructor Antonio Buenano.
According to FIFA’s website, each of its participating member associations will get a one-off grant of $50,000 to run the programme. It remains unclear how many member associations will be involved. Learning equipment will also be distributed to schools.