Football for Education Catalyzing Opportunities for Social Change


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Entrevista concedida ao Changemakers Ashoka/Nike

“Nowadays, sports are much more focused on financial reward than on educational development. We know that among those trying to start a career in football, very few actually become professional players. Education on the football field should go beyond its four boundary lines” said Thyago Luques, the manager of the “Corinthias Licensed School Initial Kick,” reflecting the current discussion among the first partners group established within the Changing Lives Through Football competition on Changemakers.com.

After submitting its idea, Universidade do Futebol, or the University of Football (or soccer as it is known in the United States) is getting attention from other projects that also use football as a tool for social change.

It is the kick-off for developing and implementing an educational program that aims to expand its methodology, focused on better exploration of all aspects of the world’s most popular sport, especially its social and educational dimensions, for all of Brazil.

Every year Brazil unveils completely new professional football teams with generations of athletes who are constantly trained in the art of playing well. But how does the process of becoming a professional happen in football? What are the roles of the different football schools and teams in Brazil?

These are the main concerns of Como educar pelo futebol, or the “How to Educate Through Football” project, developed by the University of Football, which aims to prevent football schools from turning into “frustration factories.”

Exploring football’s educational, social and well-being dimensions is the University of Football’s motto. The organization was established in 2003 to be an online platform for professional education of athletes, coaches, educators and any other people interested in working in football. The University’s challenging mission is to become a national and global resource for Brazil’s approach to teaching football. In order to achieve its mission, the University relies on a scientific-based instruction strategies and a methodology that, above all, aims to preserve the playful, artistic and creative aspects of Brazilian football.

“The University of Football’s methodology relates to the need to understand the complexity inherent in the reality in which we live. And football is a part of this reality,” explains Eduardo Tega, managing director of the University of Football. “This is the reason the project builds on the teaching idea known as the ‘knowledge web,’ that interconnects several areas, sub-areas and sectors of football’s knowledge universe through an interdisciplinary approach.”

The “How to Educate Through Football” project wants to take advantage of the enormous potential of sports to promote health, education and culture to vulnerable children and teenagers. This year a pilot stage is being conducted in Brazil, with plans for national expansion leading up to the next World Cup in Brazil in 2014. The University of Football’s goal is to modernize Brazilian football, but also impact other sports. That modernization includes proper training for trainers, leaders and managers of football schools.

Participation in the Changing Lives Through Football competition generated recognition by football schools and other organizations that share University of Football’s goal of using sports as a tool for education, inclusion and professionalization. Thyago Luques, manager of Escolas Licenciadas Chute Inicial Corinthias (Corinthias Licensed School First Kick), told Ashoka Changemakers and Nike that he is interested in establishing a partnership with the University of Football. While he already knew about the University, he intends to become more involved with the project developed for football schools.

“I think it is necessary to provide more support to those boys who will not achieve their dreams,” said Luques. “We can show them that even if their dream does not happen inside the field, their goals can be achieved outside it. Hundreds of lawyers, physicians, marketing professionals, journalists, managers, teachers and other professionals work hard to make sport possible. The main change is to clarify, though education and tutoring, that this sport is more than just a goal. In addition to the professional mentoring, sport itself is an important educational tool that we cannot disregard. Educating citizens through sport is much more rewarding than simply training athletes with no values.”

The University has its own methodology, which is based on critical, humanistic strategies for instruction that uses open spaces and students’ contributions in the teaching-learning relationship and searching for enjoyment and interest. “The objective of sports practices goes beyond the simple repetition of movements,” said Tega. “It enables a conscious sport education that is critical, conscious and reflexive, and rooted in diversity, cooperation and autonomy. It is based on human movement, and multiple levels of intelligence, psychology, philosophical principles, and social learning.”

Tega asks, “How do you teach passing in football to kids? On only a technical level, it is mandatory to learn this to be able to play football. This means putting a boy in front of other to mechanically repeat movements with the ball until it becomes automatic. Instead, in the University of Football’s approach, ‘Game Intelligence,’ we developed several short games to help kids learning by playing the pass.

“Take the ‘Fool’s Game’ as an example. Several kids stand in a circle and one kid in the middle tries to touch the ball. Depending on the complexity level required, it is possible to change the number of times the boys are allowed to touch the ball. This game develops the technical action of a pass, as well as movements, such as running forward, sideways and backwards. It also develops multiple intelligences, such as motor, spatial, sensory and interpersonal, and deals with psychological aspects, such as facing challenges and pressure, among others.

“The ‘Fool’s Game’ is just one very basic example from a vast repertoire of activities that allow a differentiated pedagogical approach for teaching football, based on kids’ street play and games, which forms the basis for the playful and creative aspects of Brazilian football.”

Futebol de Rua, or “Street Soccer,” is an organization with a similar approach that also intends to participate in “How to Educate Through Football” project. “We already have places available in Sao Paulo, Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro to start this project,” explains Alceu Neto, president of Street Soccer. Street Soccer also entered the Changemakers’ online challenge, where the two organizations started their interaction.

Neto agrees that in Brazil, an educational approach to sports is rare. “The use of sports as an educational tool is almost nonexistent, with only a few experiences conducted by civil society or private organizations. Without a doubt, if sports were used for educational purposes as well, we would have kids with better school results and would also discover new talents. The most important is not to create new stars, but to insure that 100 percent of these students become citizens, conscious of theirs rights and duties.”

The University of Football is increasingly worried about the purely competitive and financial character that Brazilian and world football is developing. Through its platform, the University is advocating a more social role for football clubs.

“Over the years the University of Football is positioning itself as an institution that debates the most diversified topics about football, expanding reflections from the competitive world to education and leisure dimensions,” said Tega. “Therefore, social responsibility is a part of our debates that have allowed us to develop some projects, including “How to Educate Through Football” and “Citizen Cup and Olympic”.

As the 2014 World Cup approaches, the University of Football believes that this is the right time to lead and encourage a process that trains and identifies qualified professionals from different areas to raise awareness and give attention to subjects that can foster relevant change in Brazilian sports, education, culture and society.

By Changemakers contributing writer, Vanuza de Araújo Ramos.

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