For world football’s governing body, arranging major tournaments like the FIFA World Cup™ is just the tip of the iceberg. FIFA is also deeply involved in football development at all echelons of the game, irrespective of gender, level, country or playing surface.
For a large number of children and teenagers, whatever pitch they happen to be playing on is immediately transformed into Wembley Stadium, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu or the Maracana in their minds. For these keen young football fans, the game they love transforms into a sport when they sign up with a club to learn some basic skills.
From that moment onwards, they become part of a structured organisation, surrounded by competent coaches. The most promising players among them can begin to dream of a career as a professional footballer, and of entering either the set-up of a club renowned for its youth policies, or a national football academy.
While only a small percentage will eventually practise the sport professionally, football remains a fundamental educational and social tool for all young players.
In some of its member associations, based in emerging nations, FIFA, through programmes like *Goal, *regional projects such as ‘Win in … with ...’, the Financial Assistance Programme (FAP) and various other technical and educational programmes, contributes enormously to the emergence of grassroots football.
As far as FIFA is concerned, this is a crucial stage in the development process. Strengthening and organising youth football constitutes one of the governing body’s major areas of focus over the next few years.
In pursuit of progress
In making improvements to existing support projects, or launching programmes tailored for the most vulnerable countries and designed to go hand-in-hand with the establishment of youth infrastructure and competitions, FIFA intends to be a driving force in this domain.
“We’re first and foremost interested in countries where football is practically the only team game,” said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. “Of course, the question of need also comes into play. In Africa, South America and the Caribbean, we’ve had a real impact. In this slightly crazy world that we live in, football can play an important role,” he added.
Consequently, FIFA has allocated eight million US dollars to grassroots football and seven million to youth football between 2011 and 2014. In addition to these figures, a budget of 36 million dollars has been earmarked for the most needy associations over the same period, to allow them to fund new infrastructure and competitions for both men’s and women’s youth football.
Between 2009 and 2011, 5,000 course participants qualified as coaches and over 60,000 children got involved in FIFA programmes, across 100 different countries.
In a regular series of reports that FIFA.com is set to bring you over the coming weeks, you will learn about examples of programmes implemented by FIFA’s Development Division, as we first shine a spotlight on the situation in Africa, before heading eastwards to India, whose desire to compete on the global stage could well lie in establishing a structure in which their enormous pool of talent can blossom.
Our next stop-off will be Peru, where the local FA has invested heavily in youth development in the hope that it will herald a return to the glory days of the 1970s and ‘80s for La Blanquirroja. It will then be the turn of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, one of the greatest examples of FIFA’s efforts in the sphere of youth development, to take centre stage, just a few days before the third edition of the women’s version of the event kicks off in Azerbaijan.
Be sure to stop back at FIFA.com on Friday 20 July for a guided tour of youth football in Africa.