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Yamam Nabeel – FC Unity – Founder and Chief Executive
“Shaab Stadium 19 December 17th 2008: Standing on the playing field of Iraq’s Sha’ab National Stadium surrounded by young people from all the different communities of the capital, I was once again filled with hope. A few months ago these young men would have put their lives at risk by simply taking part in this game with youngsters from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. On this day – they stood with me as one nation – united on the famous field that all young Iraqis dream of playing on.”
Q.Please can you introduce yourself to the NCFA? A brief profile; history, what do you do? Where do you work and why do you do it?
My name is Yamam Nabeel, I am the founder of FC UNITY. I was born in Iraq and moved to Europe at the age of 4 when my family went into exile, my father was an outspoken critic of the Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. I grew up in Hungary, where I started playing football at youth level. We moved to the UK in 1992, where I completed my A-levels and attended university. I worked as a television producer until 2003 when I interviewed the former German coach of the Iraq National football team Bernd Stange. We became friends and I organised The Goodwill UK Tour of the Iraq Team in May 2004. Organising the tour became a full-time job and at the end of it I created FC Unity. FC Unity provides a platform for education and development through large-scale football events organised by a diverse group of locals. It helps people overcome barriers and learn to work together. It brings together the private and public sectors together with the communities in order to empower locals and create healthier communities.
Q. What or who is your biggest inspiration and why?
My father, who spent his life fighting for freedom and liberty of Iraqis, taught me to always be guided by strong principles. He is still very much my guide and mentor.
Q. Where and how did the concept for the FC Unity come about – why is the organisation not funded by professional football in Britain?
FC UNITY was born after the success of the Goodiwll UK Tour of the Iraq national team and it came about with the support of Sven Goran Eriksson. Our first large-scale event was the UNITY Cup London, which was launched in 2007 and became an annual fixture for 7 years. The main concept was a community football tournament organised by a diverse group of young Londoners. It bring London’s various communities together through a series of football events based in the capital organise, managed and hosted by young people. Having dealt with the professional side of football and experienced their agenda, we did not see fit to even attempt to fund FC Unity through them.
Q. Can you briefly explain the kind of organisation FC Unity?
FC UNITY is a social enterprise, it isa limited company with an internal mission of re-investing any profits back into projects. It’s aim is to create local events, for local people, empowering, developing and employing locals. To date we have hosted programmes in the UK and Iraqi primarily but also in Sudan, Ghana, Somalia and Djibouti.
Q. Why do feel the National and International Children’s Football Alliance is a good partnership with FC Unity?
WE share the same ethos of grass-roots football and it’s power to be a platform for education and development and as a great uniter of people. The Children’s Football Alliance works with local communities and for local communities which is rare these days of “ticking-the-right-boxes” culture. The Alliance works to achieve tangible results and we believe that a partnership will strengthen both organisations and help empower more communities globally.
Q. How will the Peace Fields Project support your work and where will it be applied?
FC UNITY’s main remit in Iraq is to provide a platform for conflict resolution and help build peace through the next generations. The Peace Fields will provide a long-term organised programmes for young Iraqis to take ownership and help create national unity.
Q. Who are FC Unity’s main participants and how do they benefit?
FC UNITY is an inclusive organisation, it about people, from all backgrounds. Primarily our target participants are young people, men and women from the ages of 16. Our aim in the UK is to engage with and empower and bring together minority communities with mainstream British society.
Q. What has been FC Unity’s biggest success story to date?
Our proudest moment was the TeamIraq – Unity Cup festival in Iraq in May 2009, which was month-long festival with finals over 2 days in Baghdad’s Sh’aab (national) statidum, with over 5,000 young Iraqis coming together.
We are also very proud of the 7-year run of the UNITY Cup London, which was never funded (apart from the 2010 event) and provided an opportunity for young Londoners to come together and celebrate diversity.
For more information click on FC Unity
Juan Pedro is the Head Coach at La Manga Club a high performance football centre which is designed to give talented young footballers aged over 18 the possibility to be seen by professional football clubs, to be coached by professional, qualified and experienced football coaches, and take part in specifically designed residential football programmes running throughout the year. Whether the player has been released by a club, lives overseas and needs access to trials, or is good enough and has never had the chance to prove it to the right people, then La Manga Club High Performance Football Centre is the right place.
Q. Please provide a brief introduction to the work you do at La Manga Club?
JP. After many years working as Team Manager for professional football teams (Spain, Finland, Canada, UAE, Japan, Morocco, Tunisia, Qatar) I was also responsible for coach education in many of the countries. I advise many football associations in terms of application, direction and players development.
I am a UEFA Pro license coach with 20 years experience developing professional players and coaches.
Q. How did you end up at the La Manga Club?
After many years around the world I ended up at La Manga Club to help create the High Performance Football Centre. The beautiful location lends itself to clubs, teams and players to focus on their strengths and perform to their optimum level without the rigours of outside distractions.
La Manga High Performance Football Centre is a major hub in the world of professional football. However, we have many football clubs and teams from across the world that play at many different levels visit the centre and gain from the experience.
We have approximately than 200 professional teams and 100 amateurs teams, also about 500 scouts, visit La Manga Club every year.
Q. Why do you feel it is important to have a Peace Field at the La Manga Club?
I think the Peace Field Project is a wonderful tribute and commemoration to the First World War and the 1914 Christmas Truces. The world of football needs to be reminded that football ultimately makes millions of people, young and old, very happy. In the current economic climate here in Spain needs a Peace Fields Project to remind ourselves that Spain was viewed by many countries at the time of the First World War as peacemakers. Spain was considered one of the most important neutral countries in Europe by 1915.
Many of the young footballers from around the world that visit La Mange may be considered the best for the age in their sport in their communities. Playing on a Peace Field at the La Manga Club will remind them that football is a game that unites people it does not divide people.
It will be a field that will have games played on it in the spirit of the Christmas Truces. It will promoted sportsmanship, friendship, social inclusion and it will support peace makers through football.
Q. Who will benefit from playing on the Peace Field?
Everyone that plays on the Peace Field will benefit. We intend to provide information about why it is called the Peace Field. Through the National Children’s Football Alliance UK and the members of the International Children’s Football Alliance we aim to create links with the Peace Village, Messines, Belgium. We hope to facilitate the Peace Cup Games which will range from elite to mixed ability and mixed gender participants, young and old. We also hope to invite local schools as well as school from abroad to come and take part and celebrate peace and commemorate World War One.
Q. Is it important to commemorate the 1914 Christmas Truces through football – if so, why is it important?
I feel it is very important to commemorate 1914 Christmas Truces through football. Football provided a moment in history that brought war to a stand-still. It is a very powerful force for good. It young people can learn from that fact and respect their elders then we must provide this peace field for many generations to come.
Q, In your opinion does the football fraternity have a responsibility to promote the Peace Fields Project at all levels of the game?
In my opinion it is vital that the world of football (professional and amateur game) support and promote the Peace Fields Project at all levels of the game. It is common sense to educate young people that peace is the only way forward and football as a duty to do this for humanity. The Children’s Football Alliance will have our support and we hope to build on the good work already being done.
Click here for more information about La Manga Club
Working With Others as displayed in a football context
Tony Pearce at Herford Junior School, Brighton.
In the school where I work, for the last two years we have been implementing a programme called Working With Others; this focusses on enabling children to develop strategies that allow them to more effectively master skills of collaboration, cooperation, problem solving and solving inter-group conflict productively. Both staff and children have had timetabled sessions where they work on the skills they need to master to become effective both as individuals and members of a group: skills of communication, compromise, role designation, improvisation and flexibility, amongst others.
As the staff member with responsibility for organizing football amongst the children, I had the chance to observe behaviour first-hand that illustrated the abilities and skill sets we were trying to foster amongst the children in a football setting.
Football had disappeared from our school playground. It had been absent for so long nobody even questioned its banishment even more. When I raised a meek query, there seemed to be a list of problems associated with the game which made its exclusion irrefutable: It dominated the playground, sprawling across space in a way which made other activities impossible; the games invariably ended up being controlled by an elite – the oldest, biggest, most skilful boys; it generated bad behaviour – arguing, cheating, aggression etc.
But still, in the corners of the playground away from adult vigilance football persisted: tennis balls, netballs and even cricket balls were being kicked by children obviously hungry to play football. Surely there had to be a way to reintroduce the game?
So, I drew up a plan to put to our Head: Football in a small, contained area of the playground; controlled numbers, equal access for all children and no scope for one group to dominate. The format was to be 3v3 on a small pitch. Three teams wearing coloured bibs, two teams on, one team off and a single goal decides each game. Aside from the first game when winner stays on, each team stays on for two games then goes to the side-lines regardless of results. Access to the game was on a strict rota: lower school girls, lower school boys, upper school girls, upper school boys to allow every child an opportunity to play amongst their peers.
Pleasingly, the Head agreed to it. It was an experiment; it cost nothing, so there was nothing to lose. Schools work better when children are happy and this undoubtedly made the children happy. They were given a brief overview of how the game was to be run at a school assembly and they were left in no doubt that if the experiment failed, football would once more disappear.
With the return of football came examples of behaviour that we had been striving to inculcate in the children with the implementation of Working With Others principles. One of the examples was written up as part of our portfolio when we were assessed, but they are being shown on a daily basis – here are some examples:
To re-start our stalled Year Six Boys team an open trial was to be held, where any interested boy could play. Initially we had eighteen players which was ideal; so I picked two evenly matched teams of nine (based on my knowledge of their abilities). However, come the day of the game we were down to twelve players. Three had dropped out from each side for a variety of reasons, but unfortunately one team had lost three of its strongest players, the other three of its weakest. Once the match started it soon started to follow a predictable path – one team dominating and scoring at will the other barely able to get out of its own half. It was as unsatisfying for the winning team as it was dispiriting for the losing. At half time I gathered the players in the centre circle and asked “Is this working?” then took a step back and left them to it. Quickly and without fuss a calm discussion was held amongst all of the players, bibs were swopped and the teams were re-shaped into two evenly matched groups who proceeded to play a meaningful, competitive and wholly enjoyable second half to the game. All of the players had an input, everyone was listened to and important decisions were made quickly, fairly and efficiently.
The second example is from the playground: Initially I took a hands-on role with the games, refereeing them from a position looking down on the pitch. During one game I adjudged a player had taken the ball over the touch line, conceding a kick-in to the other team. The child looked at me appealingly but didn’t argue (no doubt aware that football in the playground hung by a slender thread) The player from the other team who had been awarded the kick in went to the touchline rolled the ball inches into play then deliberately dragged the ball back out of play – giving the possession back to the team that had wrongly been robbed of it by my interference. The children had been presented with a complex moral problem- was it right to gain an advantage over the opposition through mistaken (and misplaced) refereeing? The children managed to both respect my authority (by taking the kick-in I had awarded) and impose and maintain their own code of fairness and justice by disdaining any unfair advantage. At that moment I realised it was time to let the children run the games themselves as much as possible!
The rules of football provide a framework for meaningful play –unless the rules are followed a game disintegrates until there is nothing left. That is not to say there are not disputes – there are. But if players know that play stops until a dispute is settled satisfactorily they get pretty rapid at conflict resolution. When everybody else is waiting to carry on play, then spurious claims for “My corner!”etc. are soon abandoned in favour of continuing the game. If two players legitimately believe their claim is valid and nobody is backing down it invariably goes to ‘rock-paper-scissors’ to solve the insoluble.
In a world where children are all too often taken (driven) from one adult-led activity to another, the opportunity to practice these skills of negotiation and problem-solving are fewer. Our children are being de-skilled. In my experience, football has provided a framework for children to exercise some autonomy from the adult world; they take responsibility for the kit and equipment, they make decisions regarding infringements, they keep score, they referee. A generation ago these skills would be commonplace in children, but now, in a world where street-play has all but disappeared these abilities must be nurtured if they are not to be lost.
“I am sure those games instilled in me and my pals a sense of responsibility and a notion that one had to adhere to rules in life if you were not to spoil things for other people.
We had no referee to apply the rules of the game. When a goal was scored we restarted the game with a kick off from what passed as a centre spot. When a foul was committed, a free kick was taken and no one took umbrage.
We seemed to accept that if anyone did not play by the rules of football, the game would be spoiled for everyone.
Those games played without supervision taught us that you can’t go about doing just what you wanted because there are others to think of. Of course it was not a conscious thought at the time, but these kick-abouts on the bomb site taught us the rules of society and prepared us for life.”
Q.Please can you introduce yourself to the NCFA? A brief profile; history, what do you do? Where do you work and why do you do it?
My name is Tim Jahnigen and I am the Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at the One World Play Project. But really, I often say that I’m “more idiot than savant!” I’ve always been artistic and creative. Before I started this company with my wife, Lisa, who is our Chief Giving Officer, we had another startup based on a breakthrough medical technology I came up with and before, during and still do, I am blessed to be a lyricist with collaborators many places including NY, LA, Nashville and the UK.
Our main offices are in Berkeley CA, where I live but I travel a lot and we have field offices in Africa and Asia.
We are privileged to do what we do because we feel that we have created a simple solution to many of the complex problems that children around the world face on a daily basis.
Q. What or who is your biggest inspiration and why?
I am inspired by so many different things and people it’s almost impossible to name them all, but really, and sincerely, my biggest inspiration comes from children of the world who live in the most challenging places through no fault of their own followed by the people who work with them through the power of play organized under the idea known as Sport for Peace and Development.
But one name stands out for me in this context, and that is the great Arthur Wharton, England’s first professional black footballer. He was so far ahead of his time in terms of skill, personal character and for using his celebrity and extraordinary athleticism to serve humanity in times of crisis and need. In fact, he set the bar so high, it is unlikely that one can find anyone today who has given so much and in so many ways.
Q. Where and how did the concept for the One World Futbol come about – why is the organisation now called One World Play Project?
The One World Futbol was inspired by a heartbreaking news piece about the plight of traumatized children in places like Durfur and other war zones and learning that the unique and universal ability unstructured play has to help children and adults heal and recover their humanity.
Though the ball itself ended up becoming the first fundamental change in ball design and technology in almost a thousand years, and while it is a regulation Size 5 and weight for football, it is meant more than just one sport. It is for any form of play that children might want to use it for. We’ve also discovered the broader and ultimately more powerful impact that play itself, in all its forms, has in all human development and the need for other durable balls and products that serve our biological needs in this area, we realized that being called the One World Futbol Project was simply too limited in scope and that we needed to embrace and promote the fuller spectrum of play by including it in our name.
Q. Can you briefly explain the kind of organisation OWPP is?
Well, once the ball and it’s unique technology was sorted, we needed to decide how best to structure our venture. After months of research and evaluation we discovered a new concept that was a beautiful blend of social impact and agile entrepreneurialism called B Corporations. B Corps subscribe to what is known as the triple bottom line of People, Planet and Profit. It is a rapidly growing global business movement that uses business as a force for good and to show that you can do well and do good at the same time.
To that end, among many other innovations we represent, we are an early adopter of the Buy One Give One business model where for every ball purchased one is donated to an organization or community somewhere in a war zone, refugee camp, disaster area or one of the 80 known UN hotspots around the world.
Q. Why do feel the National and International Children’s Football Alliance is a good fit with OWPP?
To me, the National and International Children’s Football Alliance are a premier example of Sport for Peace and Development at it’s best and it is simply one of our greatest privileges to support it’s vitally important work by giving it footballs that are so durable that they allow the organization to focus on it’s mission, message and programs rather than having to constantly replace balls.
Q. How will the Peace Poppy Ball help the Peace Fields Project?
Our goal is provide a durable tool and delivery system for not just history, but knowledge and wisdom, as well as leaving a lasting symbol of the unimaginable sacrifices made on the hallowed ground of Flanders Fields. It seems that a partnership between One World Play Project the I/NCFA and the Peace Fields brings together all the elements of the Contextualization Process that the NCFA are known for: Space, Time and Place.
Q. How has the world of professional football received the peace poppy ball?
Maybe that question will be best answered by history a few years from now.
Q. How many footballs have been distributed and to which countries?
We are proud that through our Buy One Give One model and our pioneering development of marketing sponsorships, beginning with our founding sponsor, Chevrolet, we’ve been able to deliver just over 1.5 million One World Futbols through approximately 50,000 different NGO’s, non-profits and various other aid organizations in approximately 175 countries to just over 45 million children and adults.
For more information on ONE WORLD PLAY PROJECT