We all have a responsibility to make football more inclusive

  • The Football For All in Leadership program seeks to develop future industry leaders, among disabled people

  • Today was the graduation ceremony of the third edition

  • FIFA’s Joyce Cook: “We can all be key actors in ensuring football is a more inclusive space, where everyone can live their dreams”

Last season, the home of Arsenal Football Club saw the rise of a talented young crop of footballers. Today, it was the scene of a similar maturation process. The graduation ceremony of the third ‘Football for All’ Leadership Programme. The latest edition of the Program kicked off in Lisbon last October, with the goal once again of providing opportunities for disabled people in sport. It has been developed in collaboration with, and participation of sports organizations such as FIFA, UEFA, the Center for Access to Football in Europe – CAFE, the Johan Cruyff Foundation, the Portuguese FA, Arsenal FC and SL Benfica), and also supported by top academic entities such as Nova SBE and AISTS Lausanne. In the first two years, 77% of the participants went on to secure a job in the sports industry.

When put in the following context, it’s no wonder that the program is so important.
• More than 1 billion people experience disability (15% of the world population).
The national unemployment rate for disabled people varies between 50% and 90%. In most developed countries, the official unemployment rate for persons with disabilities of working age is at least twice that for those who have no disability. • Some sources suggest that football is the preferred sport of 3.5 billion people worldwide. Therefore, it should reflect all the population. Only by employing disabled people, will it allow the sport to be truly inclusive. The program has the following clear objectives: To develop participant competencies and prepare future industry leaders; to have participants at the center of an individual project linking sport and disability to empower and create lasting impact; and to create a network of industry professionals and promote collaboration opportunities. In addition, the program supports the participants to create a personal development plan, working on tools such as creating a CV, improving their self-esteem and confidence, as well as focusing on project management skills, with guidance and mentoring from industry leaders.

FIFA Senior Advisor Joyce Cook, Portuguese men’s national team coach Fernando Santos, FC Porto and Portugal’s Pepe, and PSG women’s goalkeeper Adriana Criscione are all ambassadors for the program. At today’s graduation ceremony, Joyce told the participants: “Being here with you is deeply personal to me for so many reasons, and being able to celebrate your achievements with you gives me a huge feeling of hope, pride and excitement. “It is crucial that disabled people have full access to take their rightful places as administrators, leaders and decision makers. If we ensure disabled people are not only able to enjoy but also, more frequently contribute to the game, the game will undoubtedly improve. We will see better governance, resilience, innovation, and growth. “Of course, I say this with an understanding that accountability lies with all of us, and this should be a call for action for everyone present in this room. We all have a responsibility on this topic and we can all be key actors, in order to turn football into a more inclusive space, where everyone can live their dreams.”

Did you know? FIFA’s ambition is that the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will not only become one of the most accessible international sporting events, but also leave a lasting legacy for disabled people in Qatar by raising the bar on accessibility and disability inclusion across the country. As part of the event, FIFA and the organizers are working to ensure that persons with limited mobility can benefit from barrier-free access to the stadium and receive, wherever required, assistance from specially trained volunteer teams. A sensory room was used at the FIFA Club World Cup and FIFA Arab Cup to allow for a comfortable environment at the games for children and adults with sensory access requirements. FIFA aims to provide sensory rooms in three of the eight stadiums used at the FIFA World Cup later this year. In addition, we also offer audio-descriptive commentary to enable blind and partially sighted fans to experience games in the stadium. Finally, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy in Qatar, run a program jointly with Qatari disability groups to leverage the FIFA World Cup to enhance accessibility across the country. The so-called Accessibility Forum includes collaborations with the airport, public transport systems, or the cultural sector.

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