Forward planning for Bolivia
© FIFA.com

In contrast to some of its more upwardly mobile South American neighbours, Bolivia have been in the doldrums of late. The country’s ninth-placed finish in the CONMEBOL qualifying competition for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ provided a stark indication of their woes, which have been underlined by the failure of its clubs to reach the last 16 of the Copa Libertadores since 2000.

In response to the slump in the country’s footballing fortunes, the Bolivian Football Association (FBF) has decided to act. Over the last five years the FBF has been working with the game’s stakeholders on an exciting project that has just come to fruition: the nation’s first football university.

Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com, FBF President Carlos Chavez, unveiled the initiative. “This is an academic venture launched by the FA along with the Bolivian Footballers’ Union, Nur University and the Ministry of Sport and in partnership with the Chilean National Football Academy (INAF) and the Argentinian School of Media, Radio, Broadcasting and Sports Journalism (ETER),” he says.

“The Global Education Network (Red Global Educativa) is overseeing the implementation of the education project, although people such as Carlos Aragones (the former national team coach of Bolivia) and Alfredo Webber (an Argentinian fitness coach and a consultant to the project) have been making valuable contributions too,” continues Chavez. We came up with the idea a few years ago out of the need for professionals with the greatest possible experience to get involved in Bolivian football and pass their know-how on to other generations.”

Building a dream
The university officially opened its doors on 30 March and currently offers two degree courses: Football Coaching (a four-term course) and Sports Journalism (six terms in duration). There are plans to add further courses in the future, namely Football Refereeing and Fitness Training, another degree course in Football Law and a basic administration course for active footballers.

For the academic angle on the educational initiative FIFA.com also spoke to Javier Eduardo Peralta Rios, one of the university’s main backers and the President of the Global Education Network, the organisation responsible for drawing up the syllabus. “The goal is to create an environment in which science can interact with football,” he explains. “We will be looking to train new coaches, sports journalists, referees, administrators specialised in areas such as sports marketing and finance, and agents; in short all the people who are involved in the game.”

Taking the long-term view
Aside from Bolivia’s recent poor record in the Copa Libertadores, the national side has not appeared at the FIFA World Cup finals since USA 1994. And although the university’s objectives are not specifically oriented towards improving results on the pitch, the travails of Bolivian football provided a catalyst for the venture, as Peralta Rios explains.

“It goes without saying that we need different answers to the increasingly challenging problems posed by international competition. That’s why we are hoping that this synergy will allow us to develop tactics we can convert into strategies and provide leadership in a sport that, through good results, can bring an awful lot of happiness to our people.”

“We believe this is the start of a brand new model,” adds Peralta Rios, a supporter of Club Bolivar of La Paz. “It is our belief that by nurturing talent and fostering dedication we can achieve the results we are looking for. That is what Chile did and today they are reaping the benefits, and that is why we have put our faith in hard work rather than miracles.”

The final word on the new seat of learning goes to Chavez. “This is a project that will bear fruit in time,” he opines. “We will always be looking to raise standards with regard to our human resources and the people who wish to contribute something to the game. If we keep on working hard, we can achieve big things.”