From Russia with love… of sport for everyone
2018-01-15 17:04:00 -


By Ken McCue


Twenty-six NGOs from across Europe were invited to Moscow last October for workshops organised by FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, and sportswear giant Adidas to explore how effective training in sport can bring about positive social change in the lives of children with different abilities. 

Many of the organisations in attendance, including Sport Against Racism Ireland (Sari), are part of FIFA’s Football for Hope initiative, and exchanged experiences and best practices in the field. 

Sari’s delegate to the event was Amina Moustafa, head coach with the Hijabs and Hat Tricks programme and a science student at Trinity College Dublin. Moustafa specialises in the application of scientific processes that allow sports bodies to adapt their games and allow children of mixed abilities to participate fully. 

Moustafa and her colleagues are currently working on Sari’s Sport Versus Discrimination programme in schools. They also see the Sari partnership with the Games for All section of the GAA, which runs a successful wheelchair hurling programme, as a platform to launch ‘Science for Sport, Sport for Science’. That new initiative is inspired by the work of Tuam-born Professor Mike Cooley, who advocated the use of scientific discovery for socially useful production, and not for weapons of destruction.

The rights of children of all abilities to play games are central to Sari’s philosophy. To address this, the Dublin-based social enterprise, along with NGOs around the world, is using multi-sports training sessions to change the lives of children for the better. However, it is clear that children with different abilities require a special approach, and coaches are faced with the question of whether to use the same methodologies developed, for example, for players at sports academies. 

The programme in Moscow was centred on soccer and is the result of FIFA’s efforts with its partner Adidas to provide training to NGOs in Europe and beyond in this specialised sector. It facilitated organisations working with children who have Down syndrome to exchange experiences and tips necessary for positive effects.

As part of the three-day workshop, the organisations learned about each other’s approaches and the best practices of teaching soccer to children with disabilities, as well as being able to try out these lessons. Training sessions were held with the children for whom it is especially important to carefully explain the exercises and give visual examples.

With Fifa’s support, the Moscow-based charity Downside Up, which hosted the event, recently intensified its efforts to get children with Down syndrome in Russia involved in soccer.

There are hundreds of community organisations around the globe that are active in delivering social projects through the sport. In 2018 and through its Football for Hope initiative, FIFA is continuing its support for the likes of Sari, who use sport to fight discrimination and to socially integrate people with less opportunities and different abilities to participate fully in the sport of their choice.

Over the next few months, Sari will partner with the UNESCO Chair on Transforming the Lives of People with Disabilities at Tralee Institute of Technology, under the Marseilles Declaration, in carrying out an audit of sports bodies in Ireland on the application of their equality policies in their practice.


Apart from national governing bodies such as the GAA and FAI, the study will also take into account practices in gyms and play centres for children.


Ken McCue is international and education officer with Sari.



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