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Football plays a crucial role as a vehicle for social change for hundreds of thousands of young people who are looking to escape negative personal and social circumstances and gain a foothold on a brighter future. streetfootballworld, which has been awarded UEFA's €1m charity cheque for 2011, is using the passion of football to bring together individuals and organisations and help young people build a better tomorrow for themselves.
streetfootballworld has been a committed UEFA grassroots partner for several years and its important work was rewarded when its CEO Jürgen Griesbeck received the charity cheque from UEFA President Michel Platini at the UEFA Champions League draw ceremony in Monaco on Thursday. It designed and coordinated EUROSCHOOLS 2008, a social responsibility programme for UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, and the funds from the charity cheque will reinforce the coordination of the RESPECT your Health – EUROSCHOOLS 2012 project at next summer's UEFA EURO 2012 final round in Poland and Ukraine.
The streetfootballworld network unites more than 80 organisations that use football's social power to approach social challenges such as crime, social integration, homelessness, employability and health prevention. In 2010 streetfootballworld assisted more than 600,000 young people across the globe in overcoming local challenges with the aid of football. The number of youngsters being helped is growing yearly, and the ambition of streetfootballworld and its partners is to reach out to two million young people around the world each year by 2015.
"When you're talking about the stakeholders in football, then UEFA are one of the main stakeholders," Jürgen Griesbeck told UEFA.com. "UEFA have a unique position, because they not only deal with federations but also with clubs and players. That means that the potential of UEFA to mobilise [people] is huge. Of course, receiving this award will help us gain some public awareness and boost us to develop faster in order to reach our goal: to use football in an intense way to drive social change.
"We at streetfootballworld have many and major objectives," he added. "We want to use the power of football to support social change and development, especially in poorer countries. Target groups with whom we cooperate are organisations who help and support underprivileged young people."
The streetfootballworld RESPECT your Health – EUROSCHOOLS 2012 programme will strive to promote healthy lifestyles through football, focusing on anti-smoking, healthy eating and physical activity among youngsters and their families in Poland and Ukraine. Collaboration is at the heart of streetfootballworld's work, and in this case cooperation is being sought with schools, football clubs, municipalities, NGOs and volunteer organisations among others. It is hoped the project and the relationships it will create will leave a solid social legacy in the coming years.
"I think we are still at the very beginning of what football can actually do in society," said Griesbeck. "Of course there is on one side this great economic power football has – look at the communicative presence of football, football is easy to understand; look at the passion that football produces to connect people. And then at the end the critical mass of people that are interested in football.
"If you take everything together, and see the passion of the people, bringing forward and supporting one idea, then football can change the world. But we aren't that far yet, there are still many independent small activities. Football clubs and associations organise things, companies and corporations as well, non-governmental organisations too. If we can bring that all together, then we'll see what football can do. Then it becomes a power that can change society."
For more information on how to get involved, visit streetfootballworld.org.
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