Fotbal Pro Rozvoj, football as a tool for social development
Football is a universal language and an effective tool for the promotion of social values. Football, and sport in general, provides an ideal environment for communication, respect, fairness, tolerance, inclusion, and multiculturalism. All these values are clearly represented by ‘Fotbal Pro Rozvoj’ (literally “Football For Development”), an educational project in the Czech Republic that uses football as a means to achieve educational and social objectives. The project runs in six different Czech regions and involves over 300 young people. Since 2016 it has been part of the Common Goal international network, which unites over 120 organisations that use football for the common good. The project is continuously expanding and organises joint events with Hungary, Poland, Germany and, recently, Austria too.
The significance of a gesture
A ball, a piece of flat ground, two goals, shorts and a shirt. This simple recipe has always been enough to create a magical sport if enormous potential. Pulling on your team’s shirt triggers incredible emotions and, under the right circumstances, is all it takes to put the past behind you. This is certainly the case for a group of Ukrainian kids, war refugees, that Fotbal Pro Rozvoj got involved in the ‘Team Up for Ukraine’ initiative aimed at making integration easier. The enthusiasm in the eyes of these children as they pulled on the shirts and shorts that Macron provided for them, with support from Demi Sport, was the best possible reward for all involved. It was also an important moment for these youngsters, for whom training and games have been important psychologically and in terms of socialisation and inclusion.
It has been a great experience for all involved, especially for the Ukrainian team coach, Georgy Mezhuev. “At first, I was worried about how kids who have only been going to school for a few years could communicate with adolescents who obviously have very different interests, but football proved to be a great unifier. The older lads take great care of the younger ones. They have become like older brothers. And it’s great to see."
Football in which fair play is worth more than goals scored
One of the aims of the project is to develop positive social skills through the game. The football field provides an opportunity for growth, emancipation, understanding and socialisation. This is why many young players become not only protagonists in the game but referees and rule enforcers on the pitch. Before and after the game, everybody reflects on and examines their behaviour on the field and, in a perfect display of teamwork, discusses questions of commitment, fair play, respect for the rules and collaboration as well as tactics and match technique. This approach, known as “Football3: a game in three halves” is based on the understanding that actions on the field can help us learn to deal with the challenges that arise in everyday life.
League of Fair Football
Football3 provides the basis for the League of Fair Football that the staff of Fotbal Pro Rozvoj conceived and developed in conjunction with over 30 no-profit organisations from all over the Czech Republic. Matches are played in the Spring and Autumn in Prague, Plzeň, Ústí nad Labem, Olomouc and Karlovy Vary regions, and training and educational activities run in parallel. Games serve as opportunities to develop skills like communication, respect, cooperation and responsibility, and to combat social problems like drugs, violence, prejudice, racism and inequality in general. Football therefore provides the ideal context and the perfect tool for tackling the key issues of modern life. These moments of shared experience often become opportunities for forming long-lasting friendships.
Football is like a film
There are directors, stars and supporting actors, good and bad characters: a football match often has a plot not unlike a film. Among the initiatives organised by Fotbal Pro Rozvoj is also an annual appointment with the ‘Football Film Festival’ in Prague. Football stories shown at the event attempt to reflect real-life situations and encourage viewers to pause, think and share their ideas.
This project is yet another element in a mosaic that shows how football can produce amazing stories, in which people really can grow together, overcome obstacles, accept challenges, give their all, keep faith and strive to become better persons.