By Joanna Ragsdell, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy
A Youth Development through football (YDF) project was set up in 2007 as a legacy of the 2006 Football World Cup in Germany. The project has been jointly funded through the German Government and the European Union. To date the project has directly reached around 300,000 young people in South Africa and a further 30,000 in nine other African countries. The project transforms football coaches into social workers whilst expanding their knowledge on sports, exercise and health. The initial goal of the project, if you excuse the pun, was to make the world a slightly better place by overcoming discrimination, bringing about equality of the sexes, promoting health, combating illness and violence and ensuring environmental sustainability.
The project harnesses the power which football has to unite people and cultures all over the world. It also uses the team aspect of the game to promote fairness and tolerance and mutual understanding, therefore creating a backdrop for personal development of the individual youth. This is important when considering that the number of socially disadvantaged youths in South Africa is markedly higher than in countries in the northern Hemisphere. Within the areas that YDF is operating 50% of 15-24 years olds are unable to find work after they finish school. These individuals have a great potential for social conflict, and with the schools having little chance of tackling this, initiatives such as YDF are important for social change within these regions.
So far it has been reported that through football participants have gained valuable life skills, developed a strong sense of team spirit and, among other things learned how to deal with conflict in a peaceful manner. The project has also successfully integrated girls and boys from different backgrounds and skin colour to play alongside one another. When looking at the statistics, more than a third of the participants are between 13 and 16 and almost 40% are girls, many of whom were previously unemployed. Once taking part in YDF over 74% of participants increased their self-belief and self-worth as well as their social skills. This has provided the opportunity to improve their chance of employment and to play a greater role within the community, something that may not have been possible without YDF. Their self-confidence has also increased and more than 81% of youths involved in the project see themselves as role models and report that they are recognised as catalysts for social change. It is also suggested that anti-social behaviour has fallen by 30% as a direct result of YDF positively impacting upon the wider community.
It is important that initiatives like this one, set up by the German Government, continue to use cultural exchange to develop and enhance disadvantaged communities and prevent social conflict and anti-social behaviour.
Center for Cultural Diplomacy Studies Publication
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy