Football is the world’s most popular sport and is the object of wonderment, going far beyond the act of merely trying to put a round ball between two posts and a crossbar. The appeal of the game is often used as a method of getting closer to people who are in need of some kind of support, and Kicken ohne Grenzen (Football Without Frontiers) in Austria is one such project.
In the Austrian capital of Vienna, some 11 per cent of youths and young adults are unemployed, many of them immigrants, and Football Without Frontiers is attempting to get those who are not in further education or in work onto the job ladder.
The core of the project is weekly football training, called Fussball + and is a way of using sport to help the young players to develop characteristics such as self-confidence, team spirit, leadership qualities, how to keep frustration in check, conflict management and gender equality – all of which can also help them in a professional context. Sport-based exercises are also used to promote the learning potential of the participants.
Football Without Frontiers in figures
- Founded: 2015
- Employees: approximately 20
- Teams: 4 (children, two for boys aged 14+, one for girls aged 14+)
- Youngsters taking part: approximately 120
- Support from many different bodies, including the FIFA Foundation
"We use football to reach out to young people who do not respond so easily to the usual training possibilities – either because they simply don’t have access to them or perhaps because they have had bad experiences in that area," explains Karina Lackner, one of the Football Without Frontiers project managers. "They need to believe that they will get a chance to get back into the employment or training system."
Through the project, Lackner has come to realise that sport can help introverted and shy youngsters turn into young adults who "blossom and pick up self-confidence and team spirit". It takes a lot of effort to organise – there are friendly matches every week or two as well as tournaments, but they can count on help from various sources, including the Vienna police force and SK Rapid – the most successful team in the history of the Austrian league.
"The youngsters realise that football is a way for them to be taken seriously, and that also carries over off the pitch," Lackner added. "They try to get themselves back on track and to have a better handle on their everyday lives. It particularly helps the women involved.
"Football Without Frontiers is hoping to expand, but within the project people have realised that as well as increasing the number of people involved, their priority must be to "improve the quality and depth of what (they) can offer".