Football moves the world - more than any other sport. All around the globe, organisations driven by local social entrepreneurs, use the power of the beautiful game to positively transform their communities. Development through Football is becoming an important issue within the development cooperation and social work sectors. What is it exactly about?
Fuelling positive social change through football
Football has become a fundamental pillar in and carries a significant responsibility for the society as a whole. Due to its values, popularity, universal nature and appeal, football -in all its forms- can be seen as the ideal instrument for achieving social and human development targets and tackling many of the major challenges faced by society today. Football has a positive effect on those who play it, both in terms of health (physical activity) and life skills (the values of team sport). But beyond that the game serves as an effective tool in community programmes for social development, addressing aspects as diverse as Children’s Rights & Education, Peace Building, Environment, Health Promotion, or Anti-Discrimination & Social Integration.
The success story of a sector
Undoubtedly, remarkable steps have been made in the Development through Football sector since the beginning of the 21st century, while more limited activity on the field can be tracked down already back in the late 1980’s. It is only during the last 5-6 years, however, that more and more social development and donor organisations recognise the positive impact of sports and especially football as a way to foster social and human development. The universal fascination of football thanks to its simple but exciting playing rules, along with its low equipment costs and team-building characteristics, makes this sport a favourite in the Development through Sport field.
A perfect analogy to life
The principles and values of street- or simply informal football played within Development through Football programmes include fair play, team spirit, tolerance, inclusion, and understanding, both of oneself but also of the others, regardless of their status as opponents or team mates. Kids learn to cope with winning and losing; they take responsibility for their team and actively participate in shaping their community. What they learn in training sessions and matches can be directly transferred to life off the pitch. Long-term Development through Football programmes thus offer both relief and joy for today and hope for the future, providing the participants with self-confidence, critical thought and other valuable “tools” necessary for an overall healthy journey through life.
The big picture
In the last decade, the work of the streetfootballworld Network, jointly with many other organisations, allowed to consolidate the field of Development through Football as a solid sub-sector within the overall Development Cooperation/Social Work area. The UN Year of Sport and Physical Education 2005 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ in Germany were important impulses on this path. The next FIFA World Cup being staged in Africa for the first time ever will strengthen the connection between football and social development even more and thus offer a great chance to showcase the full potential of football.