Changing the Rules of the Game

Americas (English Edition), November-December 2010 | Go to article overview

Changing the Rules of the Game


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In Quito, Ecuador, Claudia Delgado became a mother at 18 and had to drop out of school to take care of her baby. Claudia, now 26 years old, is part of a youth training program known as "A Ganar" ("Vencer" in Brazil) that uses soccer to teach young adults skills that are valued in the labor market: teamwork, self confidence, and respect for others.

"I used to feel that I was useless," Claudia says, but in 2007 she participated in the training program and now she is working as a volunteer in a youth development project. "After I joined the program, I realized that I could do things that could be really useful for people."

A Ganar/Vencer is part of ah ambitious sports-for-development program of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that seeks to form partnerships with various sectors in society in order to invest in the region's youth.

Sixty percent of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean--people with hopes and dreams like Claudia--live in conditions of poverty. In Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole, more than 83 million children and youth not only live in poverty but are also victims of violence, high drop-out rates, and social exclusion. They lack opportunities for good nutrition, education, and the ability to compete in the labor market.

Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 have an especially difficult struggle. Between 33 and 66 percent of them have dropped out of school, and many are particularly hard hit by unemployment and the lack of opportunities for growth.

Organizations like the United Nations have recognized the potential of sports and have created an inter-institutional working group to promote sports as a viable way for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, keeping in mind that participation in sports helps improve health and reduce the likelihood of illnesses. Sports programs are an effective instrument for social mobilization; and they can be an important economic force for improving living conditions, generating opportunities for employment, and contributing to local development.

"Sports have the ability to motivate children and youth, but they also teach values like discipline, respect, and the need to work as a team," says IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno. "All of this contributes to a new way of improving living conditions and general opportunities for thousands of children and youth in the region."

Through its Office of Outreach and Partnerships and its Youth Program, the IDB has been at the forefront of this ambitious sports-for-development program, forming partnerships with agents of change in government, private sector enterprises, foundations, and grassroots organizations. It is currently seeking to create new partnerships to expand the program to other countries in the region.

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One of the organizations supported through the IDB program is love.futbol. This sport-for-development social enterprise empowers underserved communities to build soccer fields in places where at-risk youth lack access to a sale place to play soccer. Since 2007, love.futbol has gotten seven community-driven soccer field projects up and running in Guatemala, and the projects currently serve thousands of children. "love.futbol harnesses passion and the power of sport to mobilize and unite communities," says Drew Chafetz, love.futbol co-founder and CEO. "Our projects are 100 percent community-driven, which creates ownership and sustainability. A love.futbol soccer field is more than a place to play; it is a lasting and tangible symbol of community strength and a platform for future change."

The program seeks to support activities that will train youth for the labor market, promoting an entrepreneurial spirit, conflict resolution skills, education, and health. …

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