In cooperation with the Ugandan authorities, UEFA has launched an initiative in the capital Kampala to give homeless children the opportunity to play football and teach them important life skills.
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In partnership with the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) and the Ugandan government, UEFA has launched a scheme to give homeless children in the country the chance to have a better future. The initiative has been launched through UEFA Assist – an assistance programme that responds to the needs of national associations and confederations across the globe.
Last month, UEFA Assist helped to train 22 Ugandan football coaches, who will instruct up to 600 children between the ages of eight and 15 every week. The youngsters will have the opportunity to take part in football training sessions in the capital Kampala, with the initiative running for ten weeks. Aside from learning about football, they will also be taught basic life skills.
UEFA Assist, which was set up in 2017, provides support for the other confederations and their member associations in four specific areas – capacity building (football and operations), development of youth football, infrastructure projects and helping UEFA's member associations to create cooperation programmes with associations from outside of Europe.
"UEFA aims to work as much as possible in the development of football, and I feel it is our duty to assist other confederations and their member associations by sharing our experience, expertise and knowledge so they can reach their goals," said UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin. "We are looking forward to helping them grow football in their continents and also to participating in the development of the game outside Europe."
In Uganda, there has been an increase in the number of children under the age of 18 who are homeless and have to resort to sleeping on the streets. Some are drawn into a life of crime as the only way they can support themselves.
The authorities in Uganda have made several attempts over the past few years to improve the situation for those children who are homeless, such as finding hostel accommodation for them. However, without a programme to address the root causes of the issue (a lack of ‘belonging’ to a family or community), the children often run away and the cycle starts again.
"We are very grateful to both FUFA and UEFA Assist for their support with this programme," said Florence Nakiwala, the Ugandan government minister for youth and children's affairs. "Using the power of football we are aiming to take vulnerable, homeless children off the streets and keep them safe.
"They will learn new skills and make new friends. We will measure the reduction in attacks on such children as well as the reduction in petty crime, drug usage and alcohol related injuries. This will allow us to understand the benefit of such an initiative in our cities."
The children will have the chance to participate in a mini-football match at the end of each weekly session. The youngsters will also be given equipment: a football shirt, shorts and shoes when they take part.
"We are delighted to have supported FUFA and believe this Football in the Community programme is an excellent initiative, delivering some very clear benefits for the Ugandan Government," said Eva Pasquier, UEFA’s head of international relations. "It shows what's possible when the various stakeholders in football work together."