CCPA soccer schools make kids smile

Some 27,000 boys and girls participated in this summer's Open Fun Football Schools run by the Cross Cultures Project Association, a partner within UEFA's social responsibility strategy.

Open Fun Football Schools – making youngsters happy
Open Fun Football Schools – making youngsters happy ©UEFA

The Cross Cultures Project Association (CCPA), a core partner at the heart of UEFA's social responsibility strategy, has overseen another successful season of Open Fun Football Schools (OFFS).

The 2011 season of Open Fun Football Schools took place under the banner Make a Kid Smile as the CCPA, a volunteer-based network organisation with headquarters in Denmark, offered playing opportunities to some 27,000 boys and girls, aged between seven and 12, across 15 countries in south-east Europe and the Caucasus region.

For CCPA director Anders Levinsen, whose schools use children's football as a means of facilitating friendship and sporting cooperation between people in post-conflict areas, the underlying message from a busy summer was that "football must be fun".

"When you play a good game, and have fun and a good time together, you go home and tell your family and friends and you share those experiences on Facebook," Levinsen said. "The meaning of Open Fun Football Schools is more than just promoting a wonderful game and bringing smiles and football to children in post-conflict areas. We also want our fun football activities to give participants a new story about friendship and cooperation, a story of positive experiences that counterbalance the old story of conflict, fuelled by mistrust and negative feelings.

"After 14 years with Open Fun Football Schools I'm still impressed by all the good work our local organisers put into the programme and when visiting a school I am overwhelmed by the dedication and enthusiasm of our volunteer coaches and leaders – and still surprised by the power of our little idea of using fun football as a tool to bring smiles, friendship and cooperation to children and adults in communities that not so long ago were divided."

Since the OFFS scheme was introduced first to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1998, the CCPA has run 1,400 Open Fun Football Schools (each lasting five days) reaching out to some 283,000 boys and girls aged seven to 12. It has also staged fun football festivals and flag days for more than 500,000 children and recruited 55,000 voluntary leaders, coaches, coach assistants, club officials and parents to help organise OFFS.

In addition, about 27,500 voluntary leaders and coaches have been educated in the CCPA fun football concept, which involves three-day theory courses and five days of practical work with children at OFFS. Workshops have also taken place for over 20,000 parents, representatives of municipal authorities and other interested parties, while the programme has stimulated the formation of thousands of community football clubs that oversee football for children on a daily basis in accordance with CCPA principles.