Making football more inclusive is incumbent on all of us

The "Football for all" program wants to train future leaders of the sector among people with disabilitiesToday the graduation ceremony of the third

  • The “Football for all” program wants to train future leaders of the sector among people with disabilities

  • Today the graduation ceremony of the third edition was held

  • FIFA’s Joyce Cook: “We can all be essential in making football a more inclusive space, where everyone can live their dreams”

Last season the pitch of Arsenal Football Club witnessed the appearance of a young batch of highly talented footballers. And today has been the scene of a similar maturation process, embodied in the graduation ceremony of the third edition of the “Soccer for all” leadership program.

The most recent edition of the program was launched in Lisbon last October, with the aim, once again, of offering opportunities to people with disabilities in sport. It has been developed in collaboration with sports organizations such as FIFA, UEFA, the Center for Access to Football in Europe – CAFE, the Johan Cruyff Foundation, the Portuguese Federation, Arsenal FC and SL Benfica, who also participated in it, and also with the support of academic entities of the renown of Nova SBE and the AISTS of Lausanne. In the first two years, 77% of the participants got a job in the sports sector.

Placing it in the following context, the importance of the program is obvious:

● In the world there are more than one billion people with disabilities (15% of the population). ● Between 50% and 90%, depending on the country in question, are unemployed. In most developed nations, the official unemployment rate for people with disabilities of working age is at least twice that of people without disabilities. ● Some sources indicate that football is the preferred sport of 3.5 billion people around the globe, so it should reflect the entire population. And it won’t be truly inclusive until it employs people with disabilities.

The program has the following clear objectives: develop the skills of the participants and prepare the future leaders of the sector; that the participants are the center of an individual project that links sport and disability to empower themselves and have a lasting effect; and create a network of professionals in the sector and promote opportunities for collaboration.

The program also helps participants to prepare a personal development plan, through resources such as writing a CV and improving their self-esteem and confidence, while continuing to focus on the necessary skills for project management, with the guidance and advice from industry experts.

FIFA Senior Advisor Joyce Cook, Portugal Men’s National Team Coach Fernando Santos, FC Porto Center Back and Portuguese International Pepe, and PSG Goalkeeper Adriana Criscione serve as ambassadors for this initiative.

At today’s graduation ceremony, Joyce told participants: “Being here with you is deeply personal to me for many reasons, and to be able to celebrate your achievements with you gives me a tremendous sense of hope, pride and excitement.”

“It is essential that people with disabilities have full access to take their rightful place as administrators, managers and decision-makers. If we ensure that people with disabilities can not only enjoy football, but also have a more frequent, this will certainly improve. We will see better governance, resilience, innovation and growth.”

“Of course, I say this knowing that it is up to all of us, and this must be a call to action for everyone in this room. We all have a responsibility in this regard and we can all be essential in making football a more inclusive space, where everyone can live their dreams”.

Did you know…?

FIFA has the ambition that the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ will not only become one of the most accessible international sporting events, but also have a lasting legacy for people with disabilities in Qatar, setting the bar high accessibility and disability inclusion throughout the country.

As part of the tournament, FIFA and the organizers are working to ensure that people with limited mobility have unobstructed access to the stadiums and are assisted by teams of specially trained volunteers whenever necessary.

A multi-sensory stimulation room was used at the FIFA Arab Cup so that children and adults with sensory access requirements could enjoy a comfortable environment during matches. It was the first time it had been done at a FIFA competition, which has set a goal of providing such venues in three of the eight stadiums for the FIFA World Cup to be held later this year.

We will also offer an audio description service so that blind and visually impaired fans can experience the matches at the stadium.

Finally, Qatar’s Supreme Organization and Legacy Committee runs a program in conjunction with Qatari disability groups to use the FIFA World Cup to improve accessibility across the country: the Accessibility Forum, which includes collaborations with the airport, public transport systems or the cultural sector.