SPIRIT OF SOCCER READY FOR BIG THINGS IN 2014
January 1st, 2014
Like every year 2013 was a big year for Spirit of Soccer.
We created some powerful new partnerships: Together with the Asian Football Development Project we brough Mine Risk Education through football to Syrian children living in Zaatari refugee camp in Northern Jordan. Confirming his support for the pilot, Prince Ali Bin Hussein said "On behalf of the Asian Football Development Project, congratulations to Spirit of Soccer for all the good work they are doing across Asia using the power of football. We look forward to working with you on this project in the near future". Both FIFA President Sepp Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini visited our program at Zaatari and both expressed their support for our work.
We also entered into a partnership with the One World Futbol project which will see them donate 10,000 'indestructible footballs' as part of their work with Chevrolet. These balls have now started to arrive at our programs around the world and will help our coaches out greatly.
We received worldwide recognition for our innovative work to improve the lives of children: our work with Syrian refugees got worldwide attention and was featured in everything from the Huffington Post to the Journal on Mine Action.
Our coaches from Iraq were invited to a Corporate Social Responsibility forum in Amman, Jordan organized by the AFC to give their expert advice, and I took part in a seminar on religious conflict at Neumann University as part of our appearance at the Beyond Sport Summit in Philadelphia.
We found out that we will be responsible for the first ever Laotian soccer team to appear at a FIFA World Cup, when we received the news that a team from Spirit of Soccer Laos has been selected to take part in the Football for Hope Festival 2014 taking place in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Most importantly of all I got the chance to visit all our programs and spend time with the most important people of all - our wonderful, brave coaches and the kids they care about.
2014 is already shaping up to be a big year for us and look out for some big news in the new year. We couldn't have achieved what we have so far without your support - and we have to say a big thank you to the US Department of State PM/WRA for their continued support of our programs around the world.
Thanks and have a wonderful and safe holiday season wherever you are.
SPIRIT OF SOCCER LAUNCHES PROGRAM FOR SYRIAN REFUGEES
December 14, 2012
Spirit of Soccer has announced that it will deliver a ground-breaking Mine Risk Education (MRE) program to children from Syria living in refugee camps in Jordan in January 2013.
The program is part of Spirit of Soccer's partnership with the Asian Football Development Project (AFDP) and will be delivered in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The project will focus on at-risk Syrian children living in the Zaatari Refugee Camp but will also include Jordanian children in villages close to the Jordan/Syria border which are also hosting Syrian families fleeing the on-going conflict in their country.
At least 20,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 20 months ago. The violence has created over 500,000 refugees, with the UN estimating that over 2.5 million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance.
According to the UNHCR, the number of refugees is growing by over 3,000 per day. Official Jordanian sources say over 250,000 people have fled to neighbouring Jordan, with 45,000 currently being settled at Zaatari, about 15km from the Syrian border.
In Syria, civilian deaths continue to rise, with children being killed by explosive remnants of war (ERW) every day. Recently, media has reported the use of cluster bombs which will add to the deadly legacy of the conflict. Spirit of Soccer was created to address the dangers of landmines and weapons like cluster bombs to civilian populations.
Spirit of Soccer's founder and director Scotty Lee, accompanied by representatives from the Jordan Football Association, the AFDP and the Arab Mine Action Consultancy Company recently visited Zaatari in preparation for next year's project. Scotty led a coaching clinic with Jordanian and Syrian coaches from the camp that included a MRE presentation as well as football activities to 40 Syrian refugee children. You can see some pictures from the visit on our Facebook page.
"The civil war in Syria is taking a terrible toll on the civilian population and the ones who are suffering most are the children" said Scotty on his return from Jordan. "When these refugees are finally able to return home they are going to be faced with all sorts of deadly threats left behind as a result of this war. Through Spirit of Soccer we want to give them important safety messages that could help save their life."
SPIRIT OF SOCCER IN IRAQ - OUR COACHES' COURAGE
October 24th, 2012
This month, Spirit of Soccer pays tribute to our team of dedicated and courageous coaches in Iraq. In recent months there has been an upsurge in violence in the country and a string of bombings and other attacks. In September alone, some 365 people were killed across Iraq, making it the country's deadliest month for more than two years, according to the government.
Despite the ever-present danger from car bombs, suicide bomber and mortar attacks, Spirit of Soccer's team of coaches continue to deliver first-rate soccer and Mine Risk Education (MRE) to children living in communities polluted by landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW).
"I really feel devastated when I see anyone who has lost a part of their body due to war or unexploded ordnance - especially if this person is a child" says Inass, part of the Spirit of Soccer coaching team in Basra. "Spirit of Soccer's programme gives us the power to prevent injuries and casualties through football, the number one game in the whole world."
Through regular coaching clinics and soccer tournaments, our team has delivered MRE to over 11,000 Iraqi children and distributed over 1,500 soccer balls. For most of these children this is the only chance they have to participate in organized soccer activities.
"It's a great honour to be part of Spirit of Soccer" says Abbas, also part of the Basra coaching team. "I love this programme because of the noble goal - to save the lives of our children and keep them from becoming handicapped. When they play football they are blessed with joy and happiness. Even if it's only for one hour, they feel their humanity and their right for a dignified life".
This month Mohammed Tahir, Spirit of Soccer's Country Manager, visited our teams in Baghdad, Basra and Kirkuk and sent back these pictures of our coaches in action.
Scotty Lee, Spirit of Soccer's founder and director, said "These pictures show the daily challenges our coaches face as they teach Iraqi children how to 'bend it like Beckham' and the killing range of a fragmentation mine. For any coaches in the West who think they have it tough, please remember your brother and sister coaches around the world who have things a little tougher."
Spirit of Soccer is working to increase participation of both boys and girls in their programmes in mine contaminated areas. Future plans include the introduction of a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation (M&E) programme to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of our work.
SPIRIT OF SOCCER TO HELP SYRIAN REFUGEES IN JORDAN
October 24th, 2012
Spirit of Soccer is to bring Mine Risk Education (MRE) through football to Syria through an innovative programme working with refugees in Jordan.
This month, Spirit of Soccer secured the backing of the US State Department's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement and Prince Ali Bin Hussein of Jordan's Asian Football Development Project (AFDP) for a pilot programme to be launched in early 2013.
As civil conflict in Syria intensifies the risk to children of being killed or maimed by explosive remnants of war (ERW) is growing every day, and thousands of people are fleeing the country. The United Nations estimates that 294,000 people have already left the country and the figure could reach 700,000 by the end of the year.
The majority of these refugees are being housed in refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. In early 2013, Spirit of Soccer will deliver MRE to thousands of children in refugee camps along the border in Jordan. The primary goal is to reduce child fatalities and injuries caused by landmines and other ERW when the children return to Syria. Secondary goals are to introduce a peace-building component to the soccer programme aimed at building positive relationships and understanding between the Syrian and Jordanan population through coaching clinics, building on similar experience with Sunni, Shia and Christian populations in Iraq. Spirit of Soccer will select coaches from our Iraqi team to help deliver the MRE.
Spirit of Soccer will also graduate Syrian coaches through a course based on the AFC 'C' License which will create opportunities for employment.
Confirming his support for the pilot, Prince Ali Bin Hussein, Chairman of the Asian Football Development Project said "On behalf of the Asian Football Development Project, congratulations to Spirit of Soccer for all the good work they are doing across Asia using the power of football. We look forward to working with you on this project in the near future."
The exciting new project is the next step in Spirit of Soccer's successful relationship with Jordan, following our MRE Festival in 2010 which brought together 30 coaches from Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine for a coaching clinic and football tournament. You can see a selection of pictures from the MRE Festival here.
SPIRIT OF SOCCER TAKES MINE SAFETY TO GIRLS IN IRAQ
Spirit of Soccer is taking its unique programme of mine risk education through soccer to more young girls in Iraq than ever before thanks to the addition of two new female coaches.
In early 2012 Spirit of Soccer expanded its operations into Khaniqin, Haweja, Baghdad and Basra, reaching boys and girls living at daily risk form the on-going violence.
Spirit of Soccer uses the power of soccer to help save the lives of children living at daily risk from landmines and explosive remnants of war in some of the most dangerous places in the world. Using a unique curriculum of Mine Risk Education (MRE) alongside soccer games and drills, Spirit of Soccer teaches simple and effective lessons that help children recognise and avoid landmines and explosive remnants of war.
"Spirit of Soccer gave me the opportunity to return to the sport I love at the same time as performing a humanitarian role, helping to protect children against mines and other weapons by educating them" says Serab Hassan, a Spirit of Soccer coach from Khanaquin. "We encourage them to play football instead of playing with weapons and to work for a better and safer life."
Iraq has been ravaged by internal conflict since the US-led campaign to remove Saddam Hussein in 2003. According to the UN, last year 194 children were killed and 232 injured as a result of on-going violence in the country.
Spirit of Soccer began operating in Iraq in the spring of 2008 and to date has delivered MRE coaching sessions to over 22,000 children, sometimes under heavy shelling. In keeping with our philosophy of local ownership we have trained 18 local Iraqi coaches to deliver our program, including three women, from a variety of different ethnic and religious groups including Arab, Kurd, Sunni, Shia and Christian.
"I lost my niece during the invasion of Iraq, so I decided to work for Spirit of Soccer so I could be able to educate as many children as I could and help them keep away from mines and weapons" says Peman, a coach from Sulaimanyiah. "I played for seven years with the Iraqi national team, but no-one knew who I was. Since I started working with Spirit of Soccer, I'm famous. Children recognize me because not only did I educate them, but I put a smile in their hearts through football".
ANTI-TANK MINES KILL EIGHT IN CAMBODIA
This month, eight farmers, including three teenagers, were killed when their truck hit two anti-tank mines in Banteay Meanchey province in north-western Cambodia. Spirit of Soccer has been working in Banteay Meanchey since 2006, and our Technical Adviser Li Heang was on the ground in the aftermath of the explosion to deliver Mine Risk Education to children in local schools. He sent this update from Cambodia:
"After learning about the landmine explosion in Banteay Meanchey, Spirit of Soccer knew that we needed to provide Mine Risk Education to children in the local villages. Together with Spirit of Soccer coach Um Chhoin, I met with the local commune chief and villagers to learn more about the accident before we went to visit the local school. What we learned from our discussions scared us. The accident happened only 150 meters from the main road - and on a road very similar to the one we had to use to access the school. After hearing about the explosion which left body parts scattered around the area we were uneasy about using dirt roads, but we followed some vehicle tracks and soon saw a mine-clearance team from the Mine Action Group (MAG). Spirit of Soccer works closely with MAG, both to support their mine-clearance with Mine Risk Education, and to use our contacts with communities to identify areas in need of de-mining.
We delivered our Mine Risk Education sessions at Mounh school. One of the students here, Smarn Korng, was on the truck that hit the anti-tank mine earlier this month. He was killed instantly along with 7 others, and the school was still in shock. Lots of the children wanted to talk about the accident and what happened.
In addition to our key messages about the dangers of landmines and unexploded bombs, we also stressed the dangers of using new roads when travelling to farms in the area. We told children that they should get off a truck that has strayed off the old roads onto new dirt roads, and encouraged them to stay in school rather than leaving school to work on the farms.
Corn prices have been rising recently, and many people are searching for new areas to plant corn - including venturing into areas which have not yet been cleared of mines. Many Cambodian kids leave school to work on the local farms because they need money, but we told them they could make more money in the long run by staying in school - and out of danger.
When we left, the school principal told us "Stay on the old road - there are mines in the forest around here". It reminded us of the dangers that people face every day here in Cambodia, and why it's important that Spirit of Soccer continues delivering vital safety education."
LEADING THE WAY IN CHILD PROTECTION
Spirit of Soccer Founder and Director Scotty Lee delivered a series of workshops on Child Protection at the Beyond Sport Summit in Cape Town, South Africa. Child Protection is a vitally important issue to our Founder and in 2010 he formed a working group together with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), Beyond Sport, and streetfootballworld to promote a global charter for child protection amongst sport for development organizations consisting of a pledge and a code of conduct. Following the workshops in Cape Town, Scotty will be delivering a webinar for the streetfootballworld network on this important topic on January 23.
INTERFAITH CAMP IN CAMBODIA
Spirit of Soccer launched the first ever interfaith camp in Cambodia, bringing together 48 boys and girls for two weeks of soccer, leadership training, religious and cultural learning and mine risk education. The participants were divided equally between Muslims, Christians and Buddhists and many had never before interacted with youth from other religions or been involved in organized sport. The camp was a big success and Spirit of Soccer hopes to replicate the program in 2012. Rachel Haig, Senior Program Advisor, said "It was incredible to see the diverse groups from all over Cambodia playing soccer together. This was the first time most of the girls had ever played sports or ever spent a night away from their rural villages. They quickly realized that although many of their new friends were from different religions, their similarities are much greater than their differences."
NEW PROGRAM LAUNCH IN CAMBODIA
Spirit of Soccer is expanding our successful Sports Diplomacy/Law Enforcement program into Pursat Province of Cambodia. Six new police officers/soccer coaches will join the Spirit of Soccer team to continue using soccer as a medium to teach Mine Risk Education and Drug Risk Education.
ANTI-PERSONNEL MINE BAN CONVENTION
In December Spirit of Soccer participated in the 11th Meeting of States Parties (11MSP) to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, a global meeting of more than 1,000 delegates from 158 countries, seeking to rid the world of landmines and cluster munitions. SOS demonstrated its MRE and soccer workshops for the delegate attendees. The Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen visited the SOS booth and commended the SOS staff on the life saving work we are doing for the children of Cambodia.