Education takes centre stage at third FIFA Foundation Community Talk 

1 Jun 2021

The third interactive episode of the FIFA Foundation’s Community Talks took place today, with a focus on football as a bridge to accessing education.

Moderated by Ana Arizabaleta, Director of Fundación Selección Colombia, the event brought together a panel of speakers including Shombi Sharp, UN Resident Coordinator for Armenia, Jean Sseninde, CEO of Sseninde Foundation and Director of Women’s Football of the South Sudan Football Association, as well as Samuel Azout, founder and Chairman of Fútbol con Corazón, to explore how different organisations are working on using football as a bridge to access education.

FIFA Foundation CEO Youri Djorkaeff kicked off the event with a video presentation of the recent FIFA Foundation Campus project in Armenia, an initiative that mobilised football as a tool for social change by bringing underprivileged kids together to learn important life skills through the game.

Speaking about his belief in the power of football, Youri Djorkaeff said: “Football is a game like no other. It speaks all languages and reaches around the globe. It is a powerful tool to help fulfil a basic human right – education – and education is essential to fight poverty and crime. Sport and education are two main pillars of today’s society, and I firmly believe that football helps everyone to learn and gain important skills for their personal development. By combining football and education, we have an incredible platform to help boys and girls learn skills such as teamwork and self-discipline, and improve their self-esteem.”

The links between football and furthering a rounded education were echoed by all of the panellists. Shombi Sharp and Samuel Azout drew on their experiences with the beautiful game as undergraduates and how football not only increased their network of friends, but also taught them valuable life lessons, like how to control their emotions and the importance of learning how to work as part of a team.

Jean Sseninde spoke about her time as a professional footballer at Queens Park Rangers and underlined her belief that it made her a well-rounded person and educated her in essential life skills like critical thinking, problem-solving and communication. She stressed that football opened her eyes to her ability to promote education: “When I got the opportunity to play football and scored my first-ever goal, it gave me the confidence to believe that I could do anything. This pushed me forward towards my goals at school…I never dreamed that I would be a director of a football association and be able to inspire young girls. It’s our responsibility to do our small part to continue promoting education and football around the world.”

The panellists also discussed education and football being sources of hope, as they help young people acquire competence and skills such as teamwork, self-discipline and self-esteem which can help them with educational opportunities to achieve career goals. In summing up his experience of football as an amateur player in college and now as the founder and Chairman of Fútbol con Corazón, Samuel Azout said aptly: “Football teaches values that are transferable to the realities of daily life. By developing cognitive, emotional and social skills, children improve their ability to confront the challenges in their lives and prevent negative social phenomena. Football teaches kids the skills necessary for a happy, healthy and productive life.”

The forum also reinforced the important role that football plays in supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 4, to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Additionally, it underlined the ability of football and education to be sources of hope for many young people around the world.

Speaking about the role of football in furthering the Sustainable Development Goals, UN Resident Coordinator for Armenia Shombi Sharp said: “Football is the unifying global sport, and in Armenia our agencies are engaged with football to create inclusion, collaboration and improve access across communities. Sport is an entry for children into the formal and informal path of education. A healthy upbringing and education don’t just come from the classroom but life experience, and that’s what the UN Sustainable Development Goals are about. At the FIFA Foundation Campus event, we saw this clearly and we are happy for UN agencies to work with the FIFA Foundation on this. Working in this football environment was a winning solution.”

In closing the third episode of the FIFA Foundation Community Talks, Youri Djorkaeff underlined the organisation’s commitment to working with the global NGO community to further education through football, saying: “The children of today are tomorrow’s leaders. Each of us has a role to play and a responsibility to help them access the very fundamental right that is education. Let’s continue to work together for this cause.”