The FIFA Grassroots programme, as it is aimed at children and must bear in mind the educational establishments that they attend, is a development scheme that needs to demonstrate considerable flexibility. As per its founding principles, implementing a Grassroots programme must be adapted to fit local needs. This was the key point that emerged from the Trinidad and Tobago pilot project back at the beginning of the FIFA Grassroots initiative.
A feasibility study carried out in Trinidad and Tobago on the impact of a Grassroots project showed that there was a possibility for it to take a relatively new direction. In this island nation of just over 1.2 million people, more than 80,000 are registered players, and 11,600 under-18s are affiliated to clubs. With football so well established there, FIFA and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFF) quickly decided to set themselves an additional objective.
And so it came about that the Trinidad and Tobago Grassroots project, as well as concentrating on its training and teaching sessions, and the practical aspects of coaching children, would turn its focus on to a problem specific to its own country. While city-dwelling children of Trinidad and Tobago already regularly play football and a large number are registered with clubs, their rural counterparts have very limited access to football, and to sport in general.
Given that one of the Grassroots programme’s goals is to make healthy sporting activity part of the day-to-day life of as many children as possible, it was a logical step to shape the project in such a way so as to involve children who were relatively deprived of organised sport.
To follow this course, rural areas that could accommodate Grassroots-related activities were identified, and in the course of a seminar held at the CONCACAF Centre of Excellence, coaches, instructors and community representatives from these areas were invited along.
The final evaluation of the Trinidad and Tobago pilot project has proved to be extremely positive. The high level of interest shown in the programme by coaching instructors as well as the forward-thinking approach of the Youth, Sport and Education Ministries, working in tandem with the nation’s football authorities, are clear signs that Grassroots is set for success. Widening the programme’s reach to take in children living in rural areas has added a fascinating new element to it.
The widespread interest combined with the resolution of this country-specific problem led the TTFF and FIFA to implement a new Grassroots programme towards the end of 2009, but this time in its full, definitive form, to strengthen the commitments of all those involved in football at grassroots level in Trinidad and Tobago.