In the past few days, the life of Nora Miranda, a Nicaraguan PE teacher, has changed for the better. “Football for Schools was a really interesting, unique and – most importantly – inspiring experience,” she said.
She continued, her voice full of emotion: “Personally, as a teacher and former national-team player, it inspired me so much that I’m going to start taking courses to be able to help all the children in Nicaragua, and show them just how far you can go with a bit of effort and dedication, and a love of football.”
Her joy and enthusiasm are in no way unique. Similar feelings were clearly shared by the event organisers and the other 29 PE teachers and five members of the Grassroots Football Division of the Nicaraguan Football Association (FENIFUT), who got together between 24 and 26 May at Nicaragua’s Estadio Nacional, in Managua, the capital of the Central American country.
“Nicaragua has been a nice surprise, right from the very first day we got here,” said FIFA Football for Schools Manager Alexandra Huete. “Some people say that it’s a dangerous country, but that has not been our experience at all. On the contrary, we’ve encountered a truly wonderful nation and society.”
She added: “This has translated to the classroom and onto the pitch of the Estadio Nacional, where we spent three days with teachers, who participated enthusiastically and showed great gratitude for the opportunity that FIFA has given them via Football for Schools.”
The Football for Schools course in Nicaragua was divided into two stages. The first one focused on the theoretical part, which comprised of conveying the methodology and philosophy of the programme, as well as timely and detailed information on how the F4S app operates. During the second stage, practical advice was given on how to incorporate life skills into the football sessions.
On the third day, the teachers took the lead and ran three sessions using the app. Consequently, around 100 young people from a local school were assembled to organise a festival and play football in a safe environment, with expertly devised exercises.
The event was a resounding success, and served as the public launch of the Football for Schools programme. Representatives from FENIFUT, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education and the national media were also present.
“Despite the rainy morning, all the children and educators who participated in the festival demonstrated passion and enthusiasm for the activities – we played for more than an hour and a half, and no-one seemed to be tired!” said FIFA Football for Schools Manager Antonio Buenano.
Only teachers from the Managua region took part in these sessions. FENIFUT was keen to kick things off as a pilot project in one area, before drawing certain conclusions that could be implemented in other parts of the country.
“Compared to other countries, the number of women represented in the teacher group has been quite high,” said Huete. “In addition, from the first day, we only saw girls’ training sessions in the stadiums, as well as women’s university-level matches.
“That’s something that has impressed me and is a clear sign of the success of the campaigns that FENIFUT has been running as part of the FIFA Women’s Development Programme since last year, with the goal of getting more girls and women interested in football. Hopefully, through Football for Schools, we are doing our part to grow that number even further.”