Experts agree that sports in Latin America, where many young people dream of being soccer stars, help prevent many social ills and fight crime in major cities in the region, while at the same time building life-long abilities and work habits in the younger generations.
International experts and government and private sector representatives gathered at IDB headquarters in Washington, D.C., to discuss better ways of tapping the power of sports to promote youth and community development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Nike Foundation and the Government of Korea announced they will be joining IDB-led initiatives to use sports as a development tool.
A report presented by Norwegian academics Samuel Bartlett and Solveig Straume studied 41 sports on youth development projects in 27 countries in the region —over a third focused on soccer, most on at-risk groups— and identified success stories and lessons learned.
The report concluded that to fully accomplish their specific goals on a broad range of themes like community and personal development, employment creation and entrepreneurship, programs need to follow a more systematic approach with carefully planned monitoring and evaluation.
“We believe that the skills learned in the soccer field can be transformed into skills for life and skills for employment,“ said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno. “Together we will use our specialized knowledge and experience to work with international, national and local partners to offer children and youth soccer training centers where they can become involved in other educational, cultural and recreational activities.“
“Through our partnerships we will not only help raise awareness and establish strong networks and outreach efforts, but we will also work together with governments and other organizations to carry out social development projects to make a real difference in the quality of life of children and youth and their families,“ concluded Moreno.
The IDB has invested over US$5 million in grants for this type of initiatives during the last two years. At the event, two new partners announced their participation with grants for projects totaling more than US$3.5 million:
The Government of Korea has pledged US$1 million for a broad regional program to support soccer-based initiatives for non-government organizations targeting youth ages 10–30 affected by social exclusion. The program counts with a US$755,000 counterpart funding from the International Federation of Football Federations (FIFA) and will be carried out by an Argentine foundation with FIFA's Street Football World Network -South America.
The Nike Foundation will provide a US$1.8 million grant for a soccer-based empowerment 3-year program for 1,400 Brazilian girls in three states. The program, called Vencedoras, follows the model of a successful 'A Ganar/Vencer' program active in Quito, Ecuador; Montevideo, Uruguay; and in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, financed by the IDB's Multilateral Investment Fund with IDB Youth and Partners of the Americas.
A Ganar/Vencer is a US$3.6 million program for at-risk youth ages 16–24 to motivate and train girls and boys to enter the workforce. By the end of 2008 around 3,200 youth are expected to be trained. To date, participants have an average 80 percent completion rate and approximately 45 percent have jobs.
“Sport teaches excellence, hard work and dedication, while having fun,” said Paul Teeple, Partners of the Americas director. “Sport teaches a 'sense of life' through work, it breaks barriers, builds confidence and helps youth redefine their lives and overcome limits.” A Ganar/Vencer mixes field and classroom activities to teach six soccer-based and market-driven skills for employment: teamwork, communication, discipline, respect, a focus on results, and self improvement
To draw private sector support by demonstrating the economic power of soccer in youth development, A Ganar organizes events and sponsorship packages for enterprises to secure needed investments for its sustainability. Projects design is closely coordinated with FIFA and the social commitment of regional soccer confederations CONMEBOL and CONCACAF.
Participants in the discussions about the most effective ways to promote effective youth programs included Jurgen Griesbeck, founder of StreetFootballWorld; Ed Foster-Simenon, president of the U.S. Soccer Foundation; Carmen Morcos of the Nike Foundation; Drew Chavitz, founder of LoveFutbol; and Andrew Gordon, director of operations of Peace Players International.
The IDB promotes youth development in the context of its overall work to support social and economic development in Latin America and the Caribbean. Over the past 25 years, the Bank has approved more than US$5 billion in loans for projects designed to meet young people's needs, especially in the areas of education, health and employment.