By Nasser Al Khori, Programmes Director at Generation Amazing
The cheers of fans in a stadium, the laughter of children during a five-a-side game at school or the feeling of connection you get with someone on public transport wearing the same jersey as you when you are heading to a game. These are just three simple yet important elements of what makes football the most loved sport on the planet. But the ongoing pandemic has changed everything: many community pitches are empty and children wait at home to kick a football around with friends, imagining what it would be like to play for their favourite team. These young people need the motivation to stay healthy and active during this difficult time.
In this time of crisis, we realised that it was vital that Generation Amazing continues with our mission of using the power of football to connect, empower and unite young people across the world. This is our duty towards youth everywhere. While social distancing required us to stop our physical programming, we asked ourselves: “How are we going to keep young people active and inspired at home?”
At the start of April, we at Generation Amazing decided to launch daily football for development sessions on our social media channels to help young people in Qatar and across the world stay connected, active and inspired.
We designed tailored activities for home settings that are being delivered by our coaches. These sessions are suitable for everyone and designed to help people of all ages. Anyone can tune in and perform the exercises at home by picking the correct intensity level. Physical and mental health are inherently tied to each other and we want to motivate people to get rid of stress through exercise.
We also recognise the significance of conversations and how they play a huge role in inspiring young people. So, while it is fun to watch our favorite players on the pitch, it is extremely important to us at Generation Amazing to learn from their experiences and provide young people with a platform to connect and be able to actively engage with their role models. As such, we began hosting live chats with star players, including the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Cafu and Tim Cahill – FIFA World Cup™ legends who are all ambassadors for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy.
Youth from all parts of the world engage in these sessions and pose questions to their role models – which provides a memorable learning experience that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. Our youth advocates are taking the lead across many of these chats as they listen to advice from footballing icons and learn from their experiences. We have worked tirelessly with partners, including Qatar National Library and Maktaba Children’s Library, to deliver educational reading sessions of our books which impart sporting values to young children. Sport is an important tool to share values of leadership, teamwork and discipline.
We have also hosted regular gender equality sessions that revolve around the important role that women play in sports and society, and the vital need for involving and supporting the development female sporting participation. Our youth advocate, Shouq Al Sulaiti, has been inspirational as she has led our gender equality discussions on Instagram Live, including empowering chats with Shaima Abdullah, goalkeeper for the Qatar women’s team and a Generation Amazing coach, Amalie Thestrup, from our partner club, AS Roma, and Lisa Akero from The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The gender equality sessions highlight the achievements of females in sport, as well as inspiring stories of young women who overcame obstacles to become who they are today. Generation Amazing is working actively to achieve a 50% female participation rate in our programmes to ensure that young girls and women can continue to be empowered to lead and make positive changes in their communities.
Since our transition to online programming we have received fantastic feedback and engagement from our Qatari and global audiences, with over 100,000 views on our live sessions over 10 exciting weeks. Of course, we faced challenges during this transition, but whether those were technical issues or ensuring an effective delivery, these challenges helped us to learn important lessons.
Online sessions can help us deliver football for development programming beyond the schools or communities we are active in. It connects us with parents and offers support at home even beyond times of crisis. We have gained the experience necessary for us to continue this delivery moving forward, allowing us to expand our programmes by utilising new technology and innovative platforms.
It is the global appeal of the beautiful game which helps us to connect young people and bridge cultures and overcome challenging situations so effectively. When football is able to safely recover and young people and laughter return to the 30 community pitches we have built across the Middle East and Asia, we will be ready once more to continue to serve youth through the inspirational power of football.