submitted by Karen Towers

Football - not just a game

Kids playing football in the Nike Foundation provided stadium in Pretoria

Wherever you are on earth, it’s only a matter of time before you will come across children playing football. Across every continent, football is a common language and a culture shared: a joy, a passion, an escape and an affirmation of identity understood and celebrated by children and their parents in every country on earth. The frenzy surrounding the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, makes it clear that soccer is not just a game, but a source of national pride and a representation of human ability on and off the field.

Promoting teamwork

Participants of the A Ganar Facilitator Training Session hold hands during the training session to teach teamwork - photo by Partners for the Americas

USAID is working with Partners of the Americas to harness the power of soccer to teach children important values like teamwork, respect, responsibility and to train them for work. Through the A Ganar (Vencer in Brazil) program, Partners of the Americas uses soccer and other team sports to help youth in Latin America and the Caribbean, ages 16-24, find jobs, learn entrepreneurial skills, or re-enter the formal education system. The focus of sports-based activities is to transfer lessons from a modified game to employment or other life situations. For example, to introduce and practice teamwork, youth play an entire soccer game while holding hands with a teammate. This field-based curriculum is mixed with classroom activities to equip youth with basic reading, writing, math, and technical skills, as well as self-confidence and motivation to help them succeed. A Ganar also engages the private sector by working with local businesses to provide youth internships or apprenticeships.

USAID has recently supported A Ganar’s program expansion in the Caribbean. On May 26 and May 27, 2010, USAID and Partners of the Americas launched A Ganar in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis. In addition, the program will also be expanded to Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. The A Ganar program will provide sports-based economic empowerment and life skills to more than 1,440 youth as well as directly benefit more than 25 youth-serving organizations. Expected results include over half (70%) of graduates securing formal employment or returning to formal education within one year of program completion.

A Ganar is a unique program that receives funding from USAID, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Nike Foundation in Brazil and other private companies. USAID is working together with other multi-lateral donors to increase the scope and scale of A Ganar so that more children have access to the program throughout the region. To date, over 3,000 youth have benefited from the program, and over 2,000 of these participants have found employment or returned to school.

The U.S. Department of State recently featured the A Ganar/Vencer program in a 26 minute documentary called Goal! Soccer for a Better Future. The film explores how six NGOs use the spirit of athletics to engage and empower disadvantaged youth in Brazil, South Africa and the United States and shows how soccer is an effective tool in life skills training, including respect, tolerance, diversity, gender equality, teamwork and opportunity.

The video will be released in full on July 15, 2010 but you can see it in four weekly installments during the World Cup on youtube. Watch”>Part 1-Tolerance.

FIFA World Cup 2010 - South Africa

The A Ganar program launched in St. Kitts & Nevis on May 27th - photo by Partners for the Americas