Denmark will be the first European country to run a pilot project of FIFA’s global health initiative “FIFA 11 for Health”. The programme combines the direct health benefits of the game with its unique educational power to teach children aged 11-12 years how to live a healthy life and avoid major diseases. Launched as part of FIFA’s medical legacy to Africa on the occasion of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, “FIFA 11 for Health” will now be adapted to European conditions and tested for the first time in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen.

“’FIFA 11 for Health’ is based on a very simple yet powerful idea: when football talks everybody listens. Therefore, it is the ideal platform to promote key health messages among young people, regardless of gender, ethnicity or social conditions. The programme was launched in Africa and we are now bringing it to Europe. The health messages will change but the language remains the same, it is the universal language of football,” said FIFA’s Chief Medical Officer Prof. Jiri Dvorak.

To make it more engaging for the younger generations, each health message of “FIFA 11 for Health” is promoted by a prominent football player such as Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Drogba, Neymar, Falcao and Marta. Five years after its launch in South Africa, more than 200,000 children in 20 countries have benefited from the programme. Studies published in well-respected scientific journals have proven that the programme has achieved a significant increase in children’s health awareness.

The pilot project in Denmark is supported by the Danish Football Association (DBU) and the Danish Ministry of Health. A total of 40 school classes (1,000 children) from 11 schools have been selected to take part in the pilot phase, which will run from August 2015 to April 2016. The 11 key health messages, which were originally designed for African countries, have been adapted to respond to the health situation and address the major health threats in European countries. Based on the results of this pilot study, a decision will be taken on the continuation and expansion of the project at national level.

“Over the last ten years we have carried out a number of research studies demonstrating the direct health benefits of playing football for people of many different age groups and with various conditions. Now, with the introduction of ‘FIFA 11 for Health’, the objective is to combine the health benefits of regular training and increase health knowledge among our young people,” said Professor Peter Krustrup from the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports of the University of Copenhagen.

”The Danish FA has taken action towards improving children’s health by establishing a collaboration between schools and local football clubs. The aim is to ensure that logistics are set up for the pupils to enjoy the many positive effects of playing football: well-being, health, inclusion and social aspects to name a few,” said Jesper Moller, President of the Danish FA.

The pilot project in Denmark was launched at the eighth World Congress on Science & Football in Copenhagen, which brought together 500 scientists from around the world for three days of exchanging knowledge and discussing the latest research in the field.