Football for Schools is kicking off, again. FIFA's football youth development programme is underway in Ivory Coast, the first West African country to host it.
The project was initially launched in 2019 but had to be paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has now been relaunched just before World Cup 2022 in Qatar.
"The school's football gives us human development, gender development, because it is for girls and boys," says football coach Adelaide Koudougnon.
Coming back with a budget of $100 million from FIFA, the programme aims to get footballs to 700 million elementary school children, almost half of the world's children aged between 4 and 14. "The Ivory Coast is the first country in West Africa to launch Football for Schools, and the fifth in the CAF region, after Mauritania, Djibouti, South Africa and Malawi," says Fatimata Sow Sidibe, director of Football for Schools.
"With the launch of the Football for Schools programme, FIFA has accompanied the FIF (Ivorian Football Federation), and the Ministry of National Education, with the delivery of about 27,000 balls and the launch of the Football for Schools app in French." The goal is to reach children in the poorest or most remote corners of the world.
India alone requires one million balls, which will likely have to travel the length and breadth of the country by road to reach children at around 10,000 schools. In total, eleven million Adidas footballs will be sent to tens of thousands of schools. Schools will also get access to training via a free smartphone app.
Those involved with the project say that changes the game because it will allow any teacher to coach with the help of dozens of practice sessions designed for children. And it may help find the next generation of talented stars.
FIFA believes there's more than half a billion willing young children out there who still don't have enough contact with the world's most popular game. "What brings me to sports is when I watch the professionals playing, for example, Sadio Mane who is my idol and Lionel Messi, who does his dribbling, that encourages me, that encourages me to play better football," says student and football fan Jean Pierre Ano Kouadja.