• Football For Hope (FFH) Centre in Iringa opened in October 2013
  • Part of ‘20 Centres for 2010’ initiative, which saw 20 FFH centres open across Africa
  • HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention are core lessons during sessions

Many people around the world take an education for granted. Some even lament going to school, sitting in a classroom and learning about geography, history or mathematics. For millions of children around the world though, an education – a basic human right – is either not readily available or impossible to attain.

At the Football For Hope Centre in Iringa, Tanzania, the classroom is taken out to the football pitch, and the lessons are not just about multiplication, or the world’s capitals – but potentially life-saving.

The teachers are the coaches, and they tell the children who attend their sessions about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, and how to help prevent the spread of diseases like malaria. Gender equality is also a key trope in the sessions, with boys and girls playing together in mixed teams.

“We are training the kids to know that they are supposed to get rid of malaria, via a net or going to their doctors to check,” Marcelino Mwaipwisi, a coach at the centre, said. “They get the message. And it’s so good because when they go home they spread that education.”

While this all sounds very thought-provoking, foreboding and serious, the methodology and delivery of these lessons certainly belie the subject matter.

“The best thing about this centre is that we get to interact with each other,” Cleopatra, a local student who attends the sessions, said. “We learn things from others and the way they do things, the way they live their lives. When we start matches we do this warm-up, we sing, we dance so you get to be happy. Even if you’re stressed out - if you come here you’re happy. That’s why I like coming here.”

The beaming smile on Cleopatra’s face is infectious, and spreads around to everyone she encounters at the centre. The pitch and facilities in Iringa were formally opened in October 2013, and are a legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, with Africa’s first senior World Cup benefitting the entire continent.

“One of the main social legacies of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010 was 20 centres for 2010,” Federico Addiechi, FIFA’s Head of Sustainability, said. “It was an initiative which created 20 Football For Hope centres in disadvantaged communities across the continent.”

Endless possibilities
The man charged with overseeing the centre, who also plays a pivotal role in the community through the Iringa Development of Youth, Disabled and Children Care (IDYDC), is Jhonnie Nkoma. His smile beams as wide as Cleopatra’s.

“FIFA’s support is very important for us because this facility has made a change in the lives of the people of Iringa,” Nkoma said. “I think the meaning for the kids and our community is the change. This is a new thing that changes from the pitch that we had previously. The programmes have become even more powerful and the people more grateful. To have this facility means that we now have to change and improve our programmes here.”

As well as those which potentially save lives, the most important lessons can be those that offer light at the end of a dark tunnel. Teaching kids that possibilities are endless, and to dream big, can impact a whole generation in a priceless way. In Iringa, football is being used to do just that.

“The coaches give us that strength,” Cleopatra concluded. “They encourage us in many things. They tell us not to lose hope in anything. It is Football for Hope, so you do not lose hope. Even if you want to do something that no-one has never done, you must do it.”

This is part of FIFA.com's ongoing series highlighting NGOs that are part of Football for Hope, FIFA’s global initiative to help improve the lives of young people through football.