The F4S programme can enable governments to use football as a tool to solve social and economic challenges in a manner that is cost-effective, youth-friendly and immensely powerful.
Governments worldwide have made commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is important to note that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development identified the role of sport as ‘an important enabler of sustainable development’, recognising “the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives” (United Nations, 2015). This marks a significant opportunity for sport to build on previous commitments by international, national and local actors to enhance the potential contribution of sport to sustainable development.
The programme has been designed to build targeted life skills and competencies through football and contribute to the SDGs and other priorities. The programme is aligned to global sport, education and health policies, including the Kazan Action Plan, the Education 2030: Incheon Declaration and Framework of Action, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (GAPPA) and can be used by governments to further their national development priorities.
Football in the education system
The F4S programme is not designed to detract from teaching or classroom time and is in fact intended to complement the efforts of teachers and advance education outcomes, thus assisting governments. Football can play a vital role in the education system and function as a ‘school for life’.
Research shows that football (and sport more broadly) is essential for the wellbeing of young people and provides a useful vehicle to transmit life skills and other important messaging. Evidence from the United Nations (2003) demonstrates that youth who spent five hours doing exercise per week tended to perform better academically than those who were active for less than an hour.
The Education 2030: Incheon Declaration and Framework of Action, led by UNESCO and partners, is crucial to pursuing ambitions for education which are captured in SDG4 of the 2030 Agenda. SDG4 aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030. The provision of physical education and sport-based activities within and outside schools contributes to SDG4 by offering a wide range of possibilities for using sport as a vector for knowledge dissemination and for the development of skills relevant to sustainable development.
Football and health
Football can improve physical and mental health, well-being and reduce the chance of diseases. This is especially important given that rates of physical activity are declining worldwide, and lifestyle diseases are increasingly rapidly, as illustrated by the World Health Organisation (2014). This is a matter of priority for many governments and urgent steps are needed to increase physical activity.
Additional benefits of football
There is no doubt that sport can stimulate development, if applied in the appropriate manner and in the right context. Examples of the potential benefits of sport, such as football, may include:
- Improving health, well-being and reducing the likelihood of major diseases
- Social mobilisation, bridging divides and bringing communities together
- Playing a major role in the education system, instilling core values
- Adding economic value through employment, improved productivity
- Increasing awareness of the human body and respect for the environment
- Offering healthy alternatives contributing to holistic youth development
- Promoting cross cultural dialogue, tolerance, conflict transformation and peace
- Offering an accessible form of communication for sensitive issues (e.g. HIV/AIDS)
- Subverting gender stereotypes and empowering women and girls
- Uplifting people with disabilities and other marginalised groups
- Providing volunteer opportunities and increased employability
Football (sport) as a human right
Like any other sport, access to football is actually a universal human right. This is recognised by the United Nations and countries all over the world who have signed commitments pledging to ensure that all people, regardless of background and ability, can access sport. However, this right is often referred to as “the forgotten right” but together we can make sure that it is alive and kicking!