Worldcoaches is an exceptional social responsibility programme led by the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB), investing the power of football into local communities in developing countries across the globe.
It is about helping children to play better football and also guiding them off the field in their day-to-day lives. The programme is supported by the Dutch government and works in cooperation with many other partners, including NGOs, private companies, football associations and government ministries.
Along with the Irish Football Association (IFA) and the German Football Association (DFB), the KNVB opened up its project for discussion during the recent UEFA workshop on corporate social responsibility hosted by the Bosnia and Herzegovina Football Federation (NFSBiH) in Sarajevo earlier this month. The workshop was held as part of UEFA's Knowledge & Information Sharing Scenario (KISS).
The thinking behind the KNVB initiative is simple, but has proved hugely effective. Billions of people play football worldwide, and it is a team sport that unites and excites irrespective of ethnic origin, status or life circumstances. Since 2009, the KNVB has applied this "global passion" in training over 3,000 dedicated football coaches in more than 15 countries in Asia, Africa, eastern Europe and Latin America, who in turn have shared their inspiration and knowledge with children living in extreme hardship and poverty.
Certainly, the principal role of the football coach is to teach the sport – yet there is also a remarkable opportunity to impart life skills off the pitch as well as on it. Life skills are essential for social integration. They generate self-confidence and the ability to think logically and make well-founded decisions. They teach communication with others and how to strengthen commitment with those around. The function of the coach in this context is ideal because, from a strong position of trust and leadership, they are able to educate, guide and mentor.
The overall success of Worldcoaches is down to the combination of both elements – the coaches are role models in the game while, at the same time, imparting skills that are transferable to real-life situations. This is particularly relevant in developing countries where the appropriate life skills can change the course of a troubled child's life, giving them the necessary hope and courage to turn their backs on violence, drug use or crime. Moreover, in terms of education, teaching the basic facts of HIV/AIDS transmission and how to avoid infection can save lives.
The Worldcoaches Life Skills Manual explains all these factors from a coach-the-coach perspective, looking at crime prevention, disease, environmental factors and female empowerment. It is imperative reading for any coach, and a key development tool for the programme. Former Dutch international Aron Winter, an ambassador for Worldcoaches, said: "It's great that the KNVB is training coaches locally to be more than just football coaches. If I can help as a role model to provide a better future for children in need, then naturally that is what I will do."
Johan van Geijn, head of international programmes and corporate social responsibility at the KNVB, said in Sarajevo: "Worldcoaches is a product of knowledge exchange and local experience. The coaches are the life force behind the entire concept. Kids love football – and our approach in developing countries is to channel that strong emotion towards hope, confidence and the capacity to lead a fuller life."
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