By Sandro Vita
The Football Club Social Alliance (FCSA) was set up by the Scort Foundation in 2007 as a non-political, non-religious and non-profit network of European professional soccer clubs, with the aim of educating young men and women to become qualified coaches and role models for other young people in their communities.
To that end, experts from various member clubs – including Queens Park Rangers, FC Basel and Bayer Leverkusen – have partnered with local NGOs and sport clubs to organise workshops and modules for holistic development in crisis-hit and developing countries.
These programmes, under the Young Coach Education banner, are divided into three categories: coaching skills, leadership, and life and soft skills – the latter of which changes from community to community, depending on its problems and needs. For the workshops in the Colombian town of Barbosa since July last year, for instance, the main focus has been conflict resolution, peace-building and drug prevention in a region that’s among the worst affected by violence and criminality.
Workshops in Jakarta, Massakar and Lembang in Indonesia, meanwhile, covered issues such as water sanitation, hygiene, health and nutrition, women’s rights, school dropouts and inclusion. And other workshops and modules have been organised in Kosovo, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Uganda, Northern Ireland, Switzerland and Germany. The last two have hosted workshops in the cities of Basel, Bremen and Leverkusen since 2007, motivating young adults with or without disabilities to train as coaches for disability soccer.
Every year the FCSA organises a Special Summer Youth Camp, where young people with mental and/or physical disabilities can enjoy a week of soccer and other recreational activities led by professional instructors and some of Europe’s 60 qualified young coaches.
Sinead Dowling, a volunteer from Sport Against Racism Ireland (Sari), attended one of the camps and was ready to share her experience:
“FC Basel 1893 professional Jean-Paul Boëtius said his highlight was seeing the smiles on all the kids’ faces. I couldn’t have agreed with him more… The sun wasn’t the only thing brightening up Basel last week but also the giant grins on the faces of all involved in the camp.
“The participants were kept very busy throughout the week, from football practice every day to watching FC Basel play in the St Jakob-Park stadium on Wednesday evening, and from beach football to rope climbing. There were a lot of exhausted, yet cheery faces during the camp.
“All the hard work in the training on Monday and Tuesday was put to the test in the tournament on Wednesday afternoon. The sun was beaming down over the pitches at the St Jakob-Park training ground and the young footballers were ready to show off their skills.
“As the teams marched onto the pitches and waved to the spectators, I realised that this was the reason I volunteered to help at the camp. Seeing the sheer excitement and bliss on all of their beaming faces, I could not help but to crack a huge smile myself.”
Dowling’s last words perfectly encapsulate the aims of the programme: “It didn’t matter what special need they had, what language they spoke or what country they came from, they were all there because of one common connection – their love for football.”