April, 2013

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Posted by: | Posted on: April 16, 2013

Will St George’s Park Shape the Future of English Football?

Written by David Ramzan.

St George’s Park and the Wembley Style Pitch

As a Level 2 FA football coach, mainly working with children and young adults with special needs and disabilities, I had the opportunity to go along to the first FA Licensed Coaches Club Seminar ‘Shaping the Future’ which took place over the weekend of December 1st – 2nd at the prestigious FA international training centre ‘St Georges Park’ in Staffordshire. This two day conference was specifically for Level 1 and 2 coaches, where on the following Monday to Tuesday, a similar conference was held for Levels, 3,4 and 5, and later in the week it was the turn of the UEFA B, A and UEFA Pro-Licensed coaches.

Is time standing still on the football fields of England? Over the past few years the national game has seemed as if it was standing still, and in some periods almost looked as if it were going backwards, ‘FA Grassroots’ football has also been wobbling along on a similar path, like young footballer’s on a cold and wet November night being instructed, one after another, to try dribbling in and out a row of cones marked out around a rain sodden, muddy pitch.

You may well ask that if I have been so sceptical about the FA’s grassroots and youth development coaching plan, then why have I taken my FA coaching Levels and joined the FA’s Licensed Coaches Club? The short answer is, that because there was a lack of opportunities for my son, who has a visual impairment, to become involved in a sport he loved, football, I had no other choice than to start organising some football for not only him, but other youngsters who were being excluded because of their learning difficulties, physical disabilities and special educational needs. This lead me into first taking my FA Level 1 coaching qualification and FA disability coaching workshop, after which I innocently began following the FA’s trusted guidance and coaching methods which seemed to have been written to aid and enable me, as a coach, to teach these young footballers how they could reach the pinnacle of football excellence. Then after several months carrying out my coaching sessions following the FA’s coaching guidelines, and throughout this time finding that these FA coaching practices were neither practical nor enjoyable for children with learning difficulties and physical disabilities to carry out, I came to hear about a GUBOG football coaching workshop. Although this workshop, which ran over a weekend, was not held in such an auspicious venue as St Georges Park, on attending this GUBOG workshop my own opinions of good coaching practices were changed for the good, and I came to realise that the children’s game, which had been played for enjoyment and fun, had now been taken over by adults with their own agendas and win at all costs mentality, where the children involved in playing football at grassroots level were not playing for themselves but for those who ran the clubs, organised the leagues and coached the players.

I have no doubt that amongst the hundreds of players involved in any grassroots youth football club there may be one player, perhaps two, who have the skill and aptitude to make football a professional career, and although all player’s in those grassroots clubs should be able to have the same opportunities to improve their footballing abilities through the coaching they receive, most of these youngsters, girls and boys, are only there just to play football for the enjoyment and fun of it. This is even more prevalent in disability football where although there are opportunities for youngsters with learning disabilities and physical disabilities to progress through the player pathways into playing international football for impairment specific teams, once again it’s the fun aspect and social camaraderie which brings most of these players to training on Sunday mornings each week.

Coaching workshop under 12s

There is no doubt that the FA have turned a corner in relation to the ongoing youth development plan at grassroots level, through the ‘Your Kids Your Say’ initiative, and The Future Game, the FA’s Technical Guide to Young player Development, first published in 2010, where the FA’s vision for players and coaches reads “The Future Game vision is intended for the whole game, with the same underpinning values applicable for coaches from grassroots to elite level. A vision for players: To produce technically excellent and innovative players with exceptional decision-making skills. A vision for coaching: To train, develop, qualify and support more innovative coaches, who are excellent teachers of the game”.

Now for the FA’s Shaping the Future Licensed Coaches Club Conference 2012, which I will endeavour to recount in an unbiased manner, leaving my own personal thoughts to the end.Opened just a few months ago there is no doubt that St Georges Park is a magnificent sporting complex, with two hotels, a large indoor training facility and numerous grass and artificial turf pitches, all set amongst some 300 acres of Staffordshire countryside not far from Burton-on-Trent. The Level 1 and 2 coaches conference saw some 300 grassroots volunteer coaches in attendance, with guest speakers including Sir Trevor Brooking, Les Howie Head of Grassroots Coaching, Brent Hills Assistant National Coach of Women’s Football, Jeff Davis National Development Manager (Disability), Toni Minichiello coach to Olympic Champion Jessica Ennis, Dr Steve Peters Consultant Psychiatrist to UK Athletics and British Cycling Team, former Bolton Wanderers Manager Owen Coyle, Mick Baikie FA National Clubs Service Manager, Steve Smithies Nantwich Town, Graham Keeley National Game Coaching Workforce Manager, Brenden Batson Football Consultant St Georges Park and Jamie Houchin Head of FA.

The costs to attend the Level 1 and 2 coaches conference ranged from £90 to £185, dependent if you stayed overnight and attended the Saturday evening Gala Dinner. The first day started at 10.00am, where all coaches attending registered in the large modern and spacious lobby of the onsite Hilton Hotel, where each of the coaches were issued with a badge, folder full of St Georges Park literature, coaching material and an extremely nice black canvas coaches shoulder bag to put it all in. Lunch was provided on both days and there were copious amounts of coffee, tea, biscuits and pastries available throughout each of the conference days. After registration it was down to business in the hotel conference suit, where FA guest speakers and sports guest speakers took a turn on stage discussing their roles in football and sport, from grassroots football to Olympic coaching, and at the end of each segment the attending coaches were offered the opportunity to put questions to the guest speaker. After lunch the coaches had the opportunity to attend varied practical workshops which were taking place throughout the afternoon of the first day, including coaching age specific players, girl’s football, Futsal transfer and goalkeeping. The day finished with another guest speaker taking to the stage followed by a review and round up of the day’s activities. Before the gala dinner the FA Licensed Coaches Club members had an opportunity to take a tour of St Georges Park, where the FA guides took us to all parts of the complex to view the indoor coaching facilities, sports medicine centre, hydrotherapy suite, human performance lab, strength and conditioning gym, rehabilitation gym, changing rooms (all fitted out with England first team kits hanging on pegs), conference and meeting rooms, and the full size indoor 3G pitch, which were all extremely impressive.

The second day began at 9.30am, starting once again with a series of guest speakers and then further opportunities for coaches to take part in a coaching workshop before lunch. In the afternoon several coaching demonstration were laid on, run by the FA Youth Coach Educator Pete Trevivian and Neil Dewsnip Academy Head Coach with Everton FC. After the practical coaching demonstrations had finished the conference proceedings came to a close with an FA coaching pathway presentation. At the end of the day’s events each of the coaches attending received some free FA Licensed Coaches Club kit, t-shirts, coaching tops and jackets, and a memory card an FA The Future Game Technical Guide. Throughout the weekends conference there was also plenty of opportunity to buy FA branded Licensed Coaches Club kit, The Future Game manuals and electronic memory cards, for varied levels of coaching, and register, with a big discount, for a coaching software analysis system for accessing the development of club players.

My main reason for attending this conference was firstly to have a chance to go to St Georges Park, England’s national training complex, and secondly to find out exactly where the FA’s grassroots plan was heading, as throughout the previous two to three years, FA coaching strategies at grassroots level have seen some dramatic changes, hopefully for the better.

The FA’s £100m facility at St Georges Park is not only the new home for England’s 24 national teams, the centre is the new home of FA learning and will be used to deliver all FA national education courses, which all Licensed Coaches Club members will have the opportunity to attend. However although St Georges Park will be used predominantly by England International teams, as the glossy brochure reads ‘ you don’t have to be an England footballer to take advantage of the world class facilities on offer at St Georges Park’. The centre is open to the public, where they can stay at either of the hotel facilities, and where junior footballers through to sports athletes can use sports and coaching facilities for a fee. For a minimum price of £30 each, young footballers can take part in an FA coaching clinic, open to all ages and abilities, which includes two hours of fun based football under the guidance of FA St Georges Park coaches, which I thought was very reasonable price and I’m sure that there are many young players out there who would love to experience taking part in a training session at the home of the England national teams.

Spot the buffet?


I must admit I am, and probably will remain, somewhat sceptical about the FA’s ongoing plan and vision for grassroots football, because ever since my first GUBOG workshop I have become an advocate of fun football first, as in my experience this is the main reason why children begin to play football. Although I know that all players need to receive good coaching practices to progress in their footballing skills and abilities, this shouldn’t take precedence over playing for the fun and enjoyment of it. However I was encouraged to find through this conference that the FA are now emphasising coaching sessions should be made enjoyable for the players, and gone are the days of session line ups, queues and dribbling around cones, practices which are at long last being replaced by small sided games developed to challenge players and to help them improve their game, which sounds somewhat like the GUBOG ethos.

During one of the conference workshops with FA National Development Coach Pete Sturgess, one of his assistance remarked ‘does your own fun and enjoyment in coaching come through teaching boys and girls how to play football….or how to win?’ The coaches attending this workshop were not required to come back with an immediate answer, but to think about their own reasons for becoming involved in coaching, however it would have been interesting to find out the percentage of coaches who would have answered ‘how to win’.

Throughout the conference those speaking who represented the FA made reference to how there was a need to change old coaching habits as FA coaching has now moved on, and how there should be a change in the way FA qualified coaches deliver their football practices and sessions. The FA acknowledged that not all qualified coaches deliver in the same way, but deliver sessions differently for the benefit of the players they coach, and there should be more flexibility for coaches when carrying out coaching at grassroots level. The FA wants St Georges Park to be the motivation for coaches to register with the FA Licensed Coaches Club to become better coaches at grassroots level and to have the opportunity to go to St Georges Park. It was said that the FA’s Licensed Coaching Club is about ongoing learning, where qualifications only make up 10-15% of this learning, and how there was a genuine commitment by the FA to support every coach across the game to help learners become more effective in the work carried out on behalf of the players they coach. It was emphasised by those speaking on behalf of the FA’s The Future Game coaching programme that coaches needed to be allowed more flexibility in their coaching practices, where previously they were required to adhere to FA structured coaching methods. Coaches are now encouraged to progress their sessions to challenge themselves further, to become more flexible and to change methodical practice sessions to achieve a better end result, which is not just to win but to make sure players get better.

During an on stage interview Owen Coyle remarked that ‘kids today can no longer kick a ball about in the streets and now need to go to clubs to feel safe and enjoy their football’ he went on to say that it was now down to those grassroots who were attending the conference today to ensure that these youngsters are given the best coaching opportunities to help them improve as players and to be able to play the game.

The FA are now promoting The Future Game and the FA’s Licensed Coaches Club as a way to help and improve coaches and players ongoing learning, which will give the FA an opportunity to communicate with grassroots coaches, where they can all work together to improve the coaching workforce, emphasising that the CPD, ‘coaches personal development’, is in place to help coaches ongoing development, as well as way to continue to challenge the FA in what it can do to improve the game from grassroots to elite players, and identify what coaches need themselves to progress in their football coaching.

In my case I believe that it is important for coaches to continue to challenge the FA, if they believe that the plans and coaching methods being produced through the The Future Game are not meeting the needs of the majority those actually playing the game, and by being part of the FA’s Licensed Coaches Club, this gives you an opportunity to make your views known from the inside rather than from outside. The FA hope to make registration to the Licensed Coaches Club free as from next year, however as the FA Licensed Coaches Club undoubtedly needs to make an income to be able to be sustainable members will be required continue their CPD, coaches personal development, up to the required minimum hours each year, which means paying to enrol on specified FA coaching workshops.

The problem I have with this is if you are inclined to join the Licensed Coaches Club, with all good intentions of making your CPD hours annually, as a volunteer coach who is involved at the basic grassroots level, there is only go so far along the FA suggested development coaching pathway, as it is not practical to continue moving up the coaching ladder to achieve your CPD hours when you are only coaching a local grassroots children’s Sunday side for one or two hours a week purely as a volunteer.

During the conference I had the opportunity to have a conversation with the FA’s head of learning, to make my views known, that a majority of those volunteer coaches would not have the time to keep up the required CPD hours to ensure they were able to retain their Licensed Coaches Club registration each year, and although I understood that the FA’s vision is to have all grassroots coaches registered through this scheme, it could cause many volunteer coaches to give it all up. This is more predominant in disability football, where those involved in coaching special needs and disability football do so out of necessity, as although the FA legislation makes it clear that all grassroots clubs should give all players whatever their ability and disability the opportunity to play football, this does not happen. Many of our own players who have learning difficulties, autism, ADHD and asperger’s syndrome, have come to our club because mainstream clubs just do not have the tendency or knowhow to include them. For the passed six years I have been putting together my own series of sessions and football practices which I hope has ensured that all children, whatever their need, disability or ability, has helped them enjoy their football experiences, and which I hope to get published as a easy reference guide which other coaches may find useful when working with Pan Disability players, which can be quite a challenge if you have no experience in running sessions to meet their varied learning, physical and ability needs.

One of the most enlightening guest speakers at the conference was Dr Steve Peters, Consultant Psychiatrist to UK Athletics and the British Cycling Team, who some people may have seen after the Olympics where he spoke about taming the ‘Inner Chimp’. He spoke about how he had helped athletes prepare for the psychological demands of elite sport, explaining ‘When it comes to the mind a lot of people don’t know what’s going on. We often act very emotionally and behave incorrectly or inappropriately and afterwards regret it. So I try to explain to people simply that if you consider the mind in terms of science we have two thinking brains the human and the inner chimp’. Dr Steve Peters has worked with the very best athletes who have developed methods to manage their ‘inner chimp’, the emotional and irrational part of the brain triggered by anxiety and fear, which can then help the human mind reach optimum performance, a method which can be applied to all walks of life. Working with children with learning difficulties, autism, ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome, this piece of information was invaluable and I will be looking at how I can use Dr Steve Peters methods when working with our players, and within my own work in special needs education.

In my own opinion, although the content of the conference went someway in demonstrating how the FA’s grassroots programme has become more child friendly and more child focused, I believe that the FA learning programme is still looking upon young players as potential future professionals. After one coaching session, run by Everton Academy Head Coach Neil Dewsnip, he noted how the young players, aged around 13-14 years old and who had been drafted in from a local community club, were not comfortable using either foot in the shooting practices he had been running. He asked ‘whose fault was this?’ and suggested it was ‘us, the coaches’, explaining that if youngsters at this age were not comfortable using either foot then what chance would they have to go further in game especially if they had asperations of playing professional football. Of course he made a good point, that players should always be encouraged to become comfortable on the ball and to be able to use either foot, which is a skill many overseas born players seem to have in abundance, however was this achieved through coaching, or by learning this through play?

This brings me back to the reasons why I joined the FA’s Licensed Coaches Club and to what is the purpose of our role as volunteer coaches, is it to make grassroots players better in the hope that one day they will become professional players, or is it to ensure that in the first instance they enjoy playing football? The FA Licensed Coaches Club has been established because, as written in the FA Learning Course brochure, ‘Whether you’re paid or not, every coach should take a professional approach. That’s why The FA is determined that coaching is seen as a profession, not a hobby’.

As far as I am concerned If any young player is talented enough to make football his livelihood, then he will no doubt be picked up at a very early age through a professional clubs community programme, youth development project, or through recommendations from the local team he plays for, where in which case he should then receive top quality coaching in that professional clubs youth development programme. For me and the coaches at my club, although we are all there to hopefully make ourselves better at coaching and the players we coach better at playing the game, the main reason we are involved is to ensure they are all having fun playing their football, as the majority of youngsters who play grassroots football will only ever do so for the enjoyment that it brings them.

David Ramzan.

If you would like to contact David about the article please email


Posted by: | Posted on: April 16, 2013

Breaking Ground Ceremony

Posted by: | Posted on: April 16, 2013

The More Moms The Better

by Laura Dutton


Laura with her son Matthew

This is me

I’m 31 years old – Mum to Matthew, aged 9 and we live just outside of Chester – over the border into North Wales. I work full time in the marketing department at MoneySupermarket.com and started blogging at as ‘British Soccer Mom’ in October, 2012 as a commentary to my hours spent standing on the sideline watching my son play football! My life has always revolved around football as I was taken to watch Chester City FC. by my Dad at the age of 9 and have been going ever since! I met Matthew’s Dad on the terraces at Chester and now our son plays for the club’s youth academy which the family is hugely proud of!


Parenting; I have wanted to start a blog for a while now but I was struggling to find a topic that wasn’t simply parent blogging for the sake of it! I wanted to have a useful, worthwhile message to my writing and my inspiration came after seeing the enthusiasm of the country after the London Olympics. I combined my own personal love of sports with my strong belief that children should be leading a healthy, active lifestyle and created my ‘British Soccer Mom’ persona which is a parody of how I see myself and my dedication to watching my son play the game!


When I started my blog I wanted to make connections with parents who have children involved in sport so we could swap ideas, tips and advice. I’ve found some great places to hang out, in particular SportsMums.co.uk and through my @britsoccermom Twitter account, I have connected with parents, organisations and individuals who promote and believe in the same issues as me – healthy lifestyles for our children, vital sports funding, positive role models and grassroots football. I’ve had a brilliant response with my articles being re-tweeted and published across the web. My article about ‘Defibrillators on Sports Fields’ was re-tweeted by Fabrice Muamba and I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing ex England player Ray Wilkins, who said he loved my blog!


Three generations.

Glad to be of service

I blog about a whole variety of topics themed around sports. Some have a serious message that I’m keen to promote, like my article on Defibrillators. Some are informative and useful like my article on fundraising and some are humorous like my ‘10 tips on how to be the Perfect Soccer Mom’ – and I always like to throw a some Soccer Mom fashion tips in there too! I’m not a company trying to push a corporate message to make a business, nor am I a personal blogger that rambles on aimlessly! I like to highlight sporting issues that concern children and open them up for discussion on my blog where anyone is welcome to comment.

Solution Solution Solution

Leading an active lifestyle is a habit that needs to be practiced at a very early age and as adults we need to ensure that this activity is enjoyable for our children. How many people do you speak to who shudder when asked about their school PE lessons? Many people recall military style PE teachers and humiliation as they struggled to ‘hop, skip and jump’ in front of the rest of the class. Children should be grouped according to ability as they are in the academic subjects and bought on at their own pace before they make the association between exercise and humiliation. I believe the national curriculum should introduce and hour of constructive, enjoyable exercise every day as it’s become clear that many parents can’t be relied on to encourage an active lifestyle at home with nearly a third of primary school children now considered obese.

The Mission

To encourage parents to take an active approach to their child’s health. As parents it’s our job to open doors for our children in regards finding out what sporting activities are available to them in their local area. If your son or daughter is no good at kicking a ball, they might be brilliant at climbing a rope, balancing on a beam or throwing some great dance moves! Find out what your child enjoys doing and try and hook them up to a club where they’ll enjoy weekly training sessions and reap the benefits from being part of a team. Our children can’t initiate this themselves so we need to be the active ones and push them to realise their potential.


Laura Dutton

If you would like to contact Laura about this article please email


Posted by: | Posted on: April 16, 2013

Crossing the White Line?

The Man-The Game-The War.


Walter Tull


National Children’s Football Alliance is supporting the campaign to “Award Walter Tull his posthumous Military Cross”. The first ever black professional outfield footballer in Britain is one of the most important historical heroes to have fought in World War One. NCFA believe that the Walter Tull story needs to be told and recognised by communities in Britain today so our children’s children can be inspired by a role model from the past in a society that remembers and continues to nurture everyone.
Award Walter Tull his posthumous Military Cross. The petition calls upon the government to posthumously award Walter Tull the Military Cross for which he was recommended. Walter was the first black outfield player in football’s top flight and the first black soldier to become an infantry officer in the British army. 2nd Lieutenant Walter Daniel John Tull led his men on dangerous missions behind enemy lines and returned without loss or injury. For these acts of bravery, he was cited for his “gallantry and coolness” under fire by Major General Sir Sydney Lawford, his commanding officer and recommended for the Military Cross. Untypically, for officers with his service record and commendation, he never received it. Was it because he embodied a contradiction? The Manual of Military Law forbade men not of ‘pure European descent’ from becoming officers. Please join us in demanding the government right this historical injustice by signing this e-petition to posthumously award Walter Daniel John Tull his Military Cross.

HM Government

If you, your family, school or organisation would like to support this campaign please click on the link below and sign the online petition.


Posted by: | Posted on: April 16, 2013

National Conference of Youth Leagues


NCFA’s Paul Cooper (PC) chats to Eric Kershaw (EK) (pictured above) of the NCYL

FA snub for Volunteers claims the NCYL website. At the NCFA we believe that all voices in the children’s game deserve to be heard whether we agree with it or not. I was interested to read about why the NCYL formed and felt the need to lobby the custodians of the game about their concerns for the now mandatory changes in grass roots. I spoke with Eric Kershaw one of the founder members of the NCYL and felt that his financial/volunteer views are representational of a sector of grass roots football that I still recognise – also his thoughts about the kids chime with many families and volunteers on the front line.

NCYL state on their website; Our caring, sharing F.A appear to have snubbed the NCYL’s invitation to talk. The NCYL has now written 3 (Three) times to the F.A inviting them to meet and discuss the disharmony that now exists in the Youth/Junior game. The first letter was sent to the General Secretary dated 1st December. His response was to ask 2 members of staff to contact the NCYL – No further contact was made. A second letter was sent on 30th January asking when contact would be made – The response said nothing about a meeting but simply described a possible future conference. (Yes another !) A third letter was sent on 2nd March clearly stating that unless the FA were prepared to talk then the NCYL will take the necessary action to protect its members interests. From the lack on any proper response it would now seem that the FA don’t care that 50 leagues are on the verge of leaving the Football Association. Are these the actions of an organisation that professes to listen to its members ?

PC. Can you tell us when the National Conference of Youth Leagues was established and why?

EK. The NCYL was established in May 2012. Initially I was contacted by several Youth Leagues and individuals who expressed varying levels of dissatisfaction with both their relevant County FA’s and the FA itself. After making a few enquiries, 10 League Secretaries agreed to meet with a view to establishing a forum where they could swap ideas and utilise the experience of their peers – With the intention of finding ways to improve the game for everyone involved.

PC. What are your organisation’s aims and objectives?

EK The initial aim of the NCYL is to meet with other leagues, swap ideas and look for ways to improve the game. Sadly, at the first meeting, it became apparent that many leagues are extremely unhappy with the FA’s ‘interference’ in the actual running of the game. When the FA first became interested in junior football around 10/15 years ago, most of their changes were simply tidying up and standardising rules but now they are introducing mandatory changes that involve massive expense and extra work for an already struggling volunteer workforce. In many instances the changes will lead to clubs deciding not to run teams at certain age groups because they cannot fulfil the criteria set down by the FA.

Subsequent investigations into some recent FA changes revealed a startling flaw in the way in which new rules are imposed upon leagues and clubs. In short, the very volunteers charged with carrying out the changes do NOT have a say in how the rules are decided. We believe that the decision making process currently employed by the Football Association does not adequately represent the views and opinions of the volunteers that run the game, nor does it recognise the problems encountered by Administrators at local level and we intend to pursue a course of action that will give Youth Leagues a clear voice both at County and National level. We believe that the FA’s current ‘One Size Fits All’ policy is damaging to Youth Leagues and, more importantly, to Clubs and their Players. We intend to pursue a course of action that will restore decision making to the clubs and not by an autonomous authority that does not fully understand the local problems at grassroots level.


NCYL fracture with the FA

PC. Who can join your organisation and how many members do you have so far?

EK. Any League or organisation that operates for the purpose of providing football for youngsters is welcome to join. The NCYL currently has over 50 member leagues representing over 15,000 teams.

PC. Are there any high profile supporters, league, and organisations supporting NCYL?

EK. We have not made any attempts to recruit high profile supporters as we hoped that the FA would agree that their voting process is undemocratic and fix it. Unfortunately, despite 3 written requests to meet, it would appear the FA has chosen not to listen to the grievances of their members. Therefore, the situation now takes on a different outlook and we will make a decision on the future at the next meeting.

PC. Did you attend the FA’s ‘Your Kids Your Say’ travelling road show and if so how what did you think of Nick Levett’s presentation of the ‘Future Game’.

EK. Mr. Levett has clearly put a lot of time and effort into his studies – Many of which are extremely good – Unfortunately, he appears to have overlooked the impractical nature of trying to implement the changes. Yes, I attended the Roadshow and most of the people I’ve spoken to agree that it was simply a series of lectures on how the clubs and leagues have got it all wrong, parents are out of control and players are leaving the game. Any questions were simply deflected as being irrelevant. My own experience as Secretary of the Huddersfield Junior League is quite the opposite. The League has grown every year since its inception in 1973.

We now have over 10,000 youngsters playing every week from September to April. The problem of parents is minimal – The League currently plays over 9,000 fixtures a year and trouble due to parents constitutes less than one half of one per cent of all games played – In other words, less than a handful. If players are leaving junior football then why are leagues across the country reporting record entries and why do the FA trumpet the massive numbers playing the game ?


The Future Game or No Future?

PC. There has been a lot of publicity in the media over the last few years about problems with touchline behaviour. Do you think this is warranted?

EK. No. The media and the FA concentrate on the problem games because such poor behaviour sells papers and helps to prove that Leagues are out of control but, the reality is quite different and for the FA to paint such a shocking picture of parents ‘living their own dreams through their children’ is an insult to all caring parents. The vast majority of parents are sensible people who simply go along to junior games to cheer along their offspring when they win and offer some comfort when they lose. The idea that they are arguing and fighting all over the place is ridiculous.

PC. I understand you would like youth leagues to have more say into the running of youth football – does this include a voice for the players themselves – the children?

EK. Yes, of course the children should be involved – Anyone, including the payers – MUST have a say when it comes to deciding their own leisure time. Parents go to work all week and children go to school – They need to have the opportunity to do what they want at the week-end – Not what an autonomous authority with its head buried in television rights wants.


PC. On behalf of the NCFA I would like to say thank you Eric for your time and informing us about your work.

If you would like to contact NYCL about the article please email


Posted by: | Posted on: April 16, 2013

A Better Way

Mark Carter (Director, Ministry of Football) ministry-of-football.com

I believe that the fundamental set-up for children’s football is wrong. It is wrong for the children it is meant to develop, it is wrong for the families of football-mad children, and it is wrong for football. There is a case that it is morally-wrong also.

To exemplify its wrongness, and highlight why we need a better way, let’s look at the journey for a 7-year old who has just decided that they want to play football:

Firstly, they have no right to play. Instead they have to trial to see if they can play. This usually means being thrown into a game of strangers and asked to show what they can do. If they aren’t deemed good enough yet, they don’t get to play at all – for at least another year, when they can trial again. Sometimes the experience of rejection – especially if their friends are successful – can leave a child saying “I don’t like football” or “I’m no good at football”.

If they do get to play, they then need to commit to play every week for a Aug to April season. Every other weekend this means they must travel to an away ground, which often means a big chunk of the family weekend now needs to revolve round their game. It also means many weekends playing in the icey cold, and several others where games are postponed. If you add up the total number of hours of weekend time against the actual amount of play time, it’s likely that the child’s family will have to invest two hours of their weekend time for every hour’s football their child plays.

Over the course of a season they will spend hours as a substitute watching their mates play, waiting their turn. They play their games surrounded by adults (whose aggregate behaviour is often demented), are usually told what to do (where to play, how to play etc) by an adult, and are mostly judged on how well they’re doing by the scoreline in their games – something that’s often out of their control. Quite often this experience puts many children and families off football altogether.

The child is grouped into a team (and the team is grouped into a league) according to their age. It is wrongly assumed they have the same learning need as all other seven year olds. Because of this, they may well win or lose by many goals. It is not a good learning experience to win or lose 10-0. Yet the result is celebrated or commiserated by some parents and coaches for days after. Losing 10-0 regularly becomes disheartening for the child too of course. But whether they win or lose, even if they are winning easily or struggling to cope, they have no option to move to a league or division that is better suited to their needs. They may keep winning or losing 10-0 for another year.

Their practice time in the week is spent rehearsing what they need to do to win (or not lose) the next game, and their practice is often interrupted by an adult “coach” (who has been on a coaching course where they have learnt lots of ways to interrupt children playing). Usually the key to the enjoyment and success the child experiences in football will not be down to the football itself, or their own adventure in the sport, but the qualities of the coach that governs their access to it.

Importantly, they might get to the end of their first season, and not ever yet have played football without heavy adult interference or intrusion or on their own terms. Eventually, when they are old enough to say no to their parents, they will realise they don’t like standing on cold football pitches being told what to do, and they will drop out of football altogether. In the very unlikely scenario they are picked for a professional academy, the expectations on the child will soar (from parents and coaches) and it is quite normal to have to commit several hours of a weekend in order to play football for 30 minutes.

This journey is typical of the children we are meant to serve. It is a journey whose every step is organised and controlled by adults. It is a replica of the way professional football is for adults, and we have made the catastrophic error of forcing the same journey onto our children. Worse still, we have not seemed to notice that we’ve done it, and we are doing very little to change it.

The system and set-up for children’s football needs a complete overhaul. Revolution not Evolution. My idea is to completely abolish all children’s leagues, and to outlaw coaching of children aged 5-11. In place of leagues and coaching, I would create ample oportunities for play instead. Local Play Centres could reach more children than currently play football, they could provide them with many more hours of football than they currently get, and they would provide them with learning environments which far surpass in quality those which they have now.

The underlying premises of the Play Centre concept are:

Children will learn to play football well if they are allowed to play football more often and more locally, without the need to commit to season-long teams, and in environments that allow them to immerse themselves in games uninterrupted.

Children aged 5-11 don’t need coaching. Yes, they can benefit from very good coaching from highly-skilled people – but it is my contention that they are much better off with no coaching at all than with a potluck selection of various anti-coaching and non-expert tuition.

The main learning aid for child footballers is each other. It is their team mates and opponents that give them the puzzles they must solve. It is essential that the grouping of children into games is done expertly in order for the learning aids for all children to be appropriate. Grouping by age as we do currently does not provide all children with appropriate learning aids. There is an essential adult role in the grouping of children for football, and this role is highly-skilled.

Football is for all children. Importantly this is not only for the benefit of the children, it is also essential to the development of football and footballers. In my experience, it is almost impossible to predict which primary schoolers will grow up to be great footballers, and thus we need to give all children the chance to thrive in excellent learning environments. We need to make the base of our pyramid as wide and inclusive as possible, and treat the beginner footballer with just as much importance as the advanced player.

What is a Play Centre?

A Play Centre is a place where children can come to play football.

Who for? 5-11 years, boys and girls, all abilities.

What? A set of pitches, with goals and footballs – and expert Play Centre staff.

Where? Anywhere and everywhere. At school (playground, hall), in parks, in sports centres, wherever team practices and games currently happen. Indoor or outdoor, all surfaces.

When? As often as possible. Weekends, for school PE lessons, pre-school, after-school, lunchtimes, early evenings, school holidays.

Play Centres would take the place of all children’s football for 5-11 year olds currently organised, supported or endorsed by the FA. They would allow children to experience the joy of football locally and easily, and would bring the opportunity of deep practice into the weekly schedule.

At a Play Centre a child is helped to find a small-sided game that is appropriate to their needs and level of play. These games are supervised by staff, but are not interrupted to coach. The children would be free to explore the game, to try new things and to learn through play. The maximum game size for 5-11 year olds at Play Centres would be 5v5, although 3v3 and 4v4 would be the norm. In an hour’s session, a child would get over 50 minutes of Active Learning Time – defined as “game time with ball in play and football decisions being made”. (This is in stark contrast to what they currently get at a regular team practice – which is usually not game-based – or a weekend game – where game-size can be 7v7 or 9v9 and the environment is tainted by adult stress and instruction).

Play Centres would host mini-tournaments and short duration competition for small-sided football. These competitions would be in-line with all the key values of the Play Centre and would be integral to the overall Play Centre programme. The aim of these mini-tournaments would be to allow children to experience competitive environments, and compete with friends against teams they don’t usually play. An example of such a tournament might be three local Play Centres getting together to arrange a 3v3 tournament over two weekends. Any such competition would be open to all abilities, with players grouped into teams, and teams grouped into leagues, based on their learning needs as usual.

Key Values

To read about key values you can visit Mark’s blog at: ministry-of-football.com

Posted by: | Posted on: April 16, 2013

International – Macedonia


NCFA spoke with Ceno Aleksandrovski (CA) Country Coordinator for Macedonia’s Open Fun Football Schools (OFFS) about their growing international recognition for the work they do is some very challenging communities in the Balkans.

Can you introduce the International Children’s Football Alliance members to Open Fun Football Schools? What do you do, where do you do it and who do you do it for?

CA. Open fun football schools is a humanitarian project using joyful games and the pedagogical “fun-football-concept” as tools to promote the process of democracy, peace, stability and social cohesion within the Balkans countries, the Trans Caucasus countries and countries in the Middle East. We do it to strenghten community relations.

OFFS_boys_300Children play in safe environments

Why was OFFS formed and what is the aim of the organisation?


CA. OFFS is building on the experience of how wars and ethnic conflicts affect people and their possibilities of returning to a daily life in post conflict areas

What are your links with UEFA?

CA. We are charity partner of UEFA from 2002, we have won many awards for out work and the organization continues to deliver high standards of child focused activities, which we are very proud of.

What are the components for reconciliation in your work?

CA.They are to bring teachers, leaders, trainers and children from different ethnic and social backgrounds to work together. To create a physical, psychological and social environment where children feel confident, stimulated and secure. Based on a strong local foundation, democratic principles, voluntarism and parent support. Bring new impulses and educate hundreds of qualified coaches from the football clubs and teachers from the elementary schools. Motivate children and adults to join local football clubs and promote children’s grassroots football activities. Distribute thousands of football and other sport equipment to the benefit of the local football clubs.

What are the strengths of OFFS?

CA.The strengths of Open Fun Football Schools is to be found in it’s ability to generate relations between people. OFFS is a community-based reconciliation project. The meaning of OFFS is to facilitate friendship and sport co-operation between people living in divided communities.

As supporters of Football & Peace do you feel that there should be more opportunities for children and young people to participate in cross cultural football for fun projects, if so, why do you think it is important?

CA.Yes of course, important is for sharing experiences, best practices, and building new friendship. That is one of the basic principles of Open Fun Football Schools.

Can you tell ICFA members about your next project, where it will be and what it is about?


Games nuturing equality.

What are OFFS core principles?

CA. All Open Fun Football Schools are organized in accordance with the basic principles: – promote grassroots football for all – promote female participation in football at all levels-minimum 25% participants of players, coaches, leaders and officials – show social responsibility, which implies that all schools are organized accordance with our so-called twin-city principles to secure diversity in terms of, among others, ethnic, social, religious and political background – mobilize voluntary leaders and coaches – educate voluntary coaches and leaders in our specific pedagogical “fun football concept”

As supporters of Football & Peace do you feel that there should be more opportunities for children and young people to participate in cross cultural football for fun projects, if so, why do you think it is important?

CA.Yes of course, important is for sharing experiences, best practices, and building new friendship. That is one of the basic principles of Open Fun Football Schools.

Can you tell us about your next project, where it will be and what it is about?

CA. It is the SSP project in Macedonia ( Sport-School-Police) together with primary schools, municipalities, Police – prevention sector , Sport clubs etc. We also have the COCA COLA CUP 2013 with Skopje Brewery and Coca Cola – during May/June 2013 in many cities all around country (Macedonia ) and the development of grassroots and girls football together with FA of Macedonia ( football tournaments for girls ) / UEFA grassroots girls projects.

For more information OPEN FUN FOOTBALL SCHOOLSclick on the link below



Posted by: | Posted on: April 16, 2013



F.U was developed from a vision that people’s love for Football (soccer) can be used to build opportunities for belonging, racial harmony and community cohesion. Begun with a goal to support refugee and newly arrived immigrant youth and families in their transition into Australian society, as the program implementation progressed, Football United leadership noted that often community sport, as currently practiced, is exclusive rather than inclusive.

Australian Children’s Football Alliance’s John Neil (JN) chats to Anne and Brad Carroll founders of the very special Football United

(JN) What is the overview of FU and who benefits?

The Football United Vision is based on a Community Development, Determinants-based Health Promotion and Positive Social Change approach that underpins all Football United interventions. Importantly all FUn programs engage with local partner groups, and all intervention sites involve extensive partner consultation and engagement, resulting in site-specific activities that are particularly adapted to the needs and realities of those sites. While intervention components are similar or the same in the different sites, (eg. Coach training, regular playing opportunities, access to leadership opportunities), flexibility and adaptation according to site specifics is vital for an effective program impact and community outcomes.

(JN) Are there a set of Football United principles?

FU use community building, social development principles;

– partnership-based approach which involves working with the community and community leaders to identify and address local needs;
– all programs systematically include local engagement, capacity building and leadership development programs, which developing self-esteem and leadership skills whilst building community morale and participation.

(JN) So where has FU come from and where is it at now?

Founded in 2006, Football United has grown significantly from a 1 program Sydney’s Western suburbs to reach more than 3000 children and youth across Australia. Football United’s achievements include:

– Football United awarded 2012 Australian Parliamentary Community Sports Award
– Football United awarded 2011 New South Wales Building Inclusive Communities Award
– Football United film awarded Australian National Human Rights award, 2010
– One of 32 programs and the only Australian organisation chosen by FIFA to participate in first ever Festival for Hope World Cup tournament in June 2010
– Awarded UNSW University award for Community Engagement, 2009
– Secured Australian Research Council Linkage Grant to deliver a global first evaluation into the effectiveness of using Football to improve social cohesion in urban communities.

(JN) Can you tell us about the National Development?

In 2010 Football United established a non funding partnership with the Football Federation Australia (FFA) and secured a small grant from Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to expand programs inter-state. In April 2010, with the support of the Queensland Government, Football United commenced the first inter-state project in Brisbane call Shinpads and Hijab’s. In 2011 Football United began its South Australia program in partnership with the University of South Australia-Adelaide. Further projects will commence in ACT, supported by Football ACT and many local partners in 2012, with requests from other states to begin new program or engage with local partner groups.

(JN) What about Football United and the International scene?

Football United is engaged in football for social development regionally and internationally. Football United’s CEO is also Australian representative to the Oceania Football Confederation’s Pacific Youth and Sport Forum, which was founded in 2010 by the OFC. Football United supports programs in Cameroon, South Sudan and a number of other programs through technical consulting. Football United was the first Australian member of the Streetfootball-world (SFW) network. SFW comprises more than 100 organisations worldwide, and works in partnership with FIFA. Football United was the Australian delegation participating in the first Streetfootballworld/FIFA 2010 Football for Hope Festival, an official event of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Football United has an official partnership with the FFA, is one of Sydney FC’s Charity partners, and works in collaboration and with support from a number of government, local and corporate bodies, as well as a significant number of volunteers.

(JN) Why football?

It is important to understand why football is seen as a tool that can be used to better society. Research suggests that participation in sport can be crucial in the development of young people. Health and fitness, through the pursuit of physical activity, is widely regarded as a key factor in personal development and many of the skills that are fundamental in sports participation, particularly in team sports, are transferable in wider aspects of life. Sport encourages strong community bonds, regular physical activity and access to positive mentors for young people. In disadvantaged communities these features are essential to social development of children and youths and building the capacity of the community more broadly. Among the various sports, Football, in particular, is an ideal tool to foster socialisation. It is the one single global sport, hence its appeal across all socio-cultural groups. In addition, it is relatively inexpensive, and is designed as a non-violent sport. It is played by both genders, thus is non-exclusive. It provides transferable skills of fair play, tolerance, inclusion and understanding of oneself, team mates and opponents alike. It teaches of responsibility, winning, losing and participation. It can address diverse and complex issues, such as children’s rights, peace building, education, health promotion and anti-discrimination. Most of all, however, it is fun.

(JN) What are the key issues related to the equity gap in participation?

Gaps in equity of access are apparent across many low SES communities : often community sport, as currently practiced, is excluding rather than inclusive. Participation is largely not possible for many socio-disadvantaged youth. Consequently, Football United, and its innovative approach, has been engaged in effectively addressing areas of social inequity and their ensuing impact on communities since 2006, addressing the following issues:

There are extreme gaps in equity of participation in sport in both the community sport arena as well as within the public education sector;
These gaps in participation translate to gaps in opportunity, which if not addressed, result in issues of disaffection in society (leaving school, aggressive behaviour, unemployment etc);
Misunderstanding of newly arrived immigrants and different cultures often translates further to racism……and the ensuing problems it provokes.
The above-mentioned phenomena highlight issues of inequity of access to sport, education, employment, health and community services in disadvantaged communities. Football United’s proven capacity and innovative approach of using Football as the vehicle to address these issues, through programs, research and advocacy, has resulted in rapid growth in demand across Western Sydney, interstate and now internationally. The issues highlighted below are central to the design and implementation of Football United with evidence taken from our own and others’ research and Government reports, including the 2009 Crawford Report, Children Sport, Youth Leadership Report and research by the Centre for Multicultural Youth Inc. and the Australian Bureau of Statistics all of which highlights:

– Very low participation rates of people from disadvantaged and multicultural backgrounds in sport and physical activity
– “Club sports are made up mostly of children from middleclass backgrounds, because participation requires adequate disposable income to pay for fees, uniforms, equipment and transport.” (Crawford)
– People born in Australia had participation rates (in organised sport) of 27%, compared to around 10% for people born in non-English speaking countries.” (CMYI)
– Long-term funding approaches are needed to address this issue and improve the ineffective distribution of short term, short sighted funding (Crawford, NSWDSR).
– “Government and NGO’s have historically supported one-off, short-term activities that limit the development of genuine community capacity and undermine the potential for sustainable community-run sport programs
– Developing neighbourhood programs, re-building schools’ systems, and training teachers are crucial to addressing the physical activity needs and interests of children, youth and families from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds, enabling them to overcome their limited resources and better engage with educational and social systems (Crawford, CMYI, ASC).

Football United experiences, researches and addresses – in short knows and engages with these issues both intimately and extensively.

(JN) How does Football United address the needs?

Football United uses the globally attractive passion for the worldwide game to provide a pathway to engagement and development opportunities for disadvantaged youth, children and their families in communities with high proportions of people from, refugee, indigenous, migrant and lower socio-economic backgrounds. Football United runs 15 programs across Western Sydney, Adelaide and soon the ACT that improve their access to education, health services and physical activity. This is achieved through:

Provision of regular, free, accessible and localised football training and playing opportunities for up to 3000 children per year to improve social cohesion while increasing physical activity rates for disadvantaged children and youth.
Provide training and mentoring for 150 youth each year, through tailored programs in leadership, community coordination, football coaching qualifications, personal development and life-skills. A significant proportion of youth continue with the program as coaches and project coordinators.
Build extensive and collaborative relationships with diverse community-based partners as well as local and state government agencies. This includes training and development of staff in these organisations increasing their skills and enhancing the ongoing sustainability of the projects.
Create awareness of these issues through advocacy, high profile partners, ambassadors and ground-breaking research to ultimately influence changes to government policy and public perceptions.
These programs are all developed in collaboration with local stakeholders to meet the cultural needs and socio economic realities of the community targeted. The growth of Football United’ occurs based on demand and requests from communities with implementation achieved through partnerships with schools, Migrant Resource Centres and other local community groups.

Football United’s strengths lie in the diversity and experience of its management team, members and supporters. Football United gathers a diverse, multi-sectoral group, combining the skills of talented corporate leaders, the commitment of a wide range of community groups, NGOs, the engagement of academia, and supported by local and state government representatives. Through this rapidly expanding network Football United fosters the power of football to inspire and promote social justice and community development.

For more information contact footballunited.org.au

Posted by: | Posted on: April 16, 2013

Interview With Hanspeter Rothmund


Hanspeter Rothmund is a social entrepreneur who has co-ordinated children’s football projects in Sudan, Kosovo and Palestine.  Football Is More hosted the Together We Are Stronger International Forum in Switzerland where a number of major football organisations and NGOs discussed the importance of a role model.   Hanspeter very kindly replied to the following questions;

Q.           Can you tell National Children’s Football Alliance members a little about Football Is More?  What are the ultimate aims that FIM would like to achieve?

HP.      The Foundation aims to continue supporting children and young people in difficult circumstances through specific sporting activities.

  1. FIM recently hosted the first ever Together We Are Stronger International Forum at the

Q.           Grand Hotel in Bad Ragaz, Switzerland.  How successful was the forum and what kind of feedback did you receive?

HP.         Having seen the diverse multifaceted presentations and discussions about “Role Models ‘€“ Examples from the World of Football” there remains the impressive understanding: a huge number of organisations and institutions from around the world are committed to the well-being, encourage all children and young people in areas hit by crisis and war. The common ground and basis of all initiatives are the unifying and inspiring force and emotionality of a true world sport ‘€“ football.

We could achieve our target to its full extent. The feedback we received was very positive, and the majority of delegates would like to join the next forum.

  1. FIM awards ceremony recognised the community work of Liverpool Football Club and the corporate social responsibility of Real Madrid’s world-wide work.  How important is it for professional football clubs promote social inclusion?

HP.         People are highly social; they generally belong to a group. This may make a positive or a negative impact on young people.

Football and the big clubs play an important role in this point.
They can, with their social work and their behavior towards their fellow men, play an important role regarding education, development and integration.  We hope to celebrate the good work football clubs achieve at top level and grass roots level, they are the same.

Q.           The role model theme at the Forum was brilliantly illustrated by Don Mullen Irish author of ‘The Boy Who Wanted to Fly’ when he gave an emotional speech about his role model Gordon Banks.  Why do you think role models are important in the game?

HP.         Parents and educators have a limited impact on their children regarding the choice of their role models.  Children can have difficult choices and some role models can be challenging which can be a concern.  Learning from role models, especially complex figures that are still maturing in public arenas, needs the sport to provide guidance; for instance, social responsibilities, public service and promoting fair play on and off the pitch.  Furthermore, high profile role models’ behavior towards specific persons or groups can have a massive positive effect and we need to nurture this.   Children aspire to GREATNESS, including these of football stars. A football star should be aware of his role!  The forum was about people and organisations which brought and still bring an exemplary service free of selfish motives for young people from troubled or peripheral regions or young people with or without disability.  This work is getting more and more important in today’s society.

Q.           Can you tell us about the previous projects undertaken in Kosovo, Sudan, Israel/Palestine and Sierra Leone?  What do these projects have in common?

HP.         Football is the engine to implement social aspects. Football is a school of life!  When playing football, the skin colour, the religion and gender is irrelevant. This tool can and should be used to help young people with development and furtherance.

This is just the way the projects were planned and conducted. Notwithstanding that every region had different problems; the work could be conducted in a long-term and successful way.  The key is football to unlock the door to development.

Q.          How can clubs and other organisations support the good work of FIM?

HP.      “together we are stonger”
The organisations need to communicate more with each other and could eventually work on common projects.   A visit of the next International Forum would be very helpful.  Keep in touch with our website http://footballismore.org/index.html

The clubs and NGO’s can touch base with us and we try to establish the right connections.

Q.          Who are the volunteers that support FIM and what do they bring to the Foundation?

For our projects we rely on volunteers in different areas. Longer personal commitments are acknowledged through FOOTBALL IS MORE reports and certificates.   Without our volunteers, some of our projects could not be implemented.  Our volunteers are very important to us.

Q.          FIM Patron Wilfred Lemke, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, appealed to the delegates to support the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG).  Are their plans for FIM to support MDG, if so, how?

HP.         We consider the MDG in each project and try to implement them successfully.  We are very proud of the work of the UN in sport for Development FIM hope to support this with our projects.

Q.          As you know FIM share many aims of the NCFA.  You state that FIM aim to, ‘Provide conditions in order to reach concrete social projects realistically. Projects, which focus on the integration of disadvantaged children and young people’.  How do you intend to go about this good work in the current economic climate?

HP.       That’s a good question.  Indeed, the economic situation is not really good.  But we know that especially in such hard times people are moving towards each other and searching for solutions.  This is why we hope to work with the NCFA and explore how we can make a difference.

Q.          As you know providing a voice for children in football is no easy task.  How do you think FIM and NCFA can make governments sit up and actively support our work on an international level?

HP.       I believe that we have to continue our work and engage the politics at a level where they can support projects.  They have to feel that some problems cannot be resolved on a political level, but with football it is possible.

Q.          In your opinion is there scope for an International Children’s Football Alliance that could represent children on a global platform?  An organisation that supports the world’s extended children’s football family and reinforces all the good work being done by organisations such as FIM.

HP.         NCFA should ally with international organisations. I very much hope that FIM and NCFA implement some great projects.

Q.          Is there a FIM project that we can lookout for in the future and how might we be able to support it?

HP.          FIM is strongly focused on the integration/migration of disabled and non-disabled young people.
With the partnership programme of FOOTBALL IS MORE, clubs and NGOs will be supported in order to help them in their work with disabled young people. The focus is on the exchange of knowledge, the development and the promotion of the integration of young disabled people within clubs.   It is this aspect that I believe we can achieve with collaboration.

Posted by: | Posted on: April 16, 2013

Interview With Abhijeet Barse

Slum Soccer was registered as a Non Governmental Public Charitable Trust Organization governed by the Public Trust Act of the state of Maharashtra in 2001 under a board of directors. The organization is subject to periodic financial audit by law. SS function with the ultimate aim of reaching out to the Indian homeless using football as a tool for social improvement and empowerment.  Abhijeet Barse is at the forefront of providing safe fun environments for children and young people to play soccer.
Can you tell the National Children’s Football Alliance (NCFA) members what inspired you to form the fantastic Slum Soccer?
Most slum dwellers never get an opportunity to properly play and excel in sports activities. Vijay (our founder) realized that instead, many became criminals or substance users. As a sports teacher, Vijay was all too aware of the positive life skills sports can teach, as well as the loss for the country and the sports world, as so much talent goes unsupported and undiscovered. Vijay could empathize with children from the slums who had no proper sports instruction, and began running sports and games for them. He was encouraged not only by his friends and family, but also the guardians of the children and teenagers he was coaching; drug use and addictions went down, and school grades came up. He had a unique vision for India’s Slums.

What activities are Slum Soccer providing for children and where do Slum Soccer facilitate football in India?
Our project was created through necessity, its aim: to offer much needed sporting opportunities and personal development programs to disadvantaged young people across India. Football coaching camps and tournaments are organized for boys, girls and young adults from Slum areas around Nagpur. Whilst giving the children a chance to play football in an organized environment, we conduct workshops to run alongside the coaching sessions. As well as Healthcare workshops, we often hold educational workshops, in which the children are made aware of the importance of attending and working hard at school. One of the aspects of our project that we are most proud of is the continuing evolution of the project, which sees many of our former players now acting as coaches within our project. We are proud that these players want to continue and develop alongside side us. We believe it shows that they can appreciate how the project has benefited them in the past, and continues to benefit local children. The coaches and educators know exactly what will benefit the children, and the coaches can also promote our project within their local community. Upon seeing our coaches parents and guardians can see firsthand the benefits of football and our project.

What kind of children participates in your football activities?
Most of the children come from slums; we have centres running at orphanages, rescue centres and in the red light district of Nagpur.

Who are the volunteers that support Slum Soccer on the frontline?
We have a very dedicated group of volunteers. They come from all backgrounds but the common thread that binds them all is their passion for football and the opportunity to use football to achieve development. To name a few we have football coaches, teachers, engineers, doctors, software professionals, chartered accountants volunteering their services to us.
As you know NCFA share many of the aims of Slum Soccer especially, ‘Development through Football’.  How does your organisation use football to get young people back into education?

SS encourages all its participants to give education its due importance; our coaches keep a regular eye on how the children are doing in school.  For other participants we are trying to provide out of school learning experience, based on their skill levels and interest.

Can you tell us about the Project Sunshine Kids and working in association with Sunshine Foundation? http://sunshinefoundation.org.in/projects_khushaali.html .

We intend to cover a lot of ground with project especially for female participants. Issues such as reproductive health and hygiene are being worked alongside with creating employment opportunity through this unique collaboration.

Slum Soccer’s philosophy mentions ‘€“ ‘’€¦the biggest factor that enables us to use football as a tool to connect with our people and bring about social development is quite stunningly simple. Football is fun!  How difficult is it to convey this message in one of the world’s most celebrated cricket nations?

Initially it was quite difficult, but as soon as our participants started getting opportunities for showcasing their talents and being acknowledged by their community it became easier for us. Most of the coaches are players who have gone through the program and are now training and encouraging younger children to take up football. Also the fact that football is easier to play and learn and also cheap helps a lot in popularizing in neglected sections of the society.

Football for All is a basic Slum Soccer principle how is this worked into your methodology?

Football is used as tool to get the dialogue started between communities, it helps us to make an inroad in otherwise closed communities. Once the participants start to play and practice together we start with the educating them about issues such social inclusion, gender issues,
From a general participants perspective we don’t limit the participation, we invite everyone to participate irrespective of their age or gender.

How important is it that the world of soccer acknowledges children who play the game outside of the radar of the professional game?

One of the biggest achievements for our participants is the opportunity to play in the Homeless world Cup which gives equal importance football as well as development through football.  When these participants come back after such as exposure, they start sharing their experience with their communities. We also train such participants to take up roles of leaders and mentors for other kids.  From a football perspective such participants get to participate and be a part of good team outside our organization.

Children in many cultures struggle to retain their birth right to play football, how does Slum Soccer address this issue in the corridors of power?

Football still has a long way to go before it is considered important as compared to cricket. We are trying to promote football for the very reason that it is cheap and simple alternative to other sports. Also one of the biggest challenges is that sports is considered to be a competitor to education, it is this mindset that we are trying to break. We are trying to improve at the grassroots, but we hope that the effects will be reflected at the higher levels.

In your opinion is there scope for an International Children’s Football Alliance that could represent children on a global platform?  An organisation that supports the world’s extended children’s football family and reinforces all the good work being done by organisations such as yourself.

Yes, absolutely. Having gone through your website i believe that you are trying to give football the much needed social/community side, instead of creating just footballers you are trying to create well rounded kids which by our standards is highly commendable.

Is there a Slum Soccer project that you would like to tell our readers about and how they might like to support the good work being done?

Very recently we started women’s football development project which is focussed on girls from our target areas.  We need support in terms of female coaches, curriculum development and finances as well. Creating awareness about our work is also one area where we need support.