You are here

football3: An interactive learning tool, both on and off the pitch

Copyrights: Sport Against Racism Ireland

football3: An interactive learning tool, both on and off the pitch

What started out in Colombia in 1994 as a different way to play football is today a global movement, a way to work towards a peaceful and equal society around the world.

To understand the origin of football3, you must first go back to the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States. Columbia, considered underdogs for the tournament, were knocked out in the group stage after an own goal from their centre back, Andrés Escobar. A few weeks after the return of the Colombian team, Escobar was shot dead in a parking lot by a fanatic fan for scoring the fatal own goal.

The tragedy shook the world of football and especially Colombia which, at that time, was in the midst of a war that would last over 60 years. Escobar’s tragic death inspired a movement called futbol por la paz which claimed that football was a sport which was meant to unite people, not to kill them. Futbol por la paz was a direct response to Escobar’s murder and the war; it brought together guerrilla fighters, paramilitary groups, and gangs to play football. This laid the foundation for football3 – enemies in war coming together to play football.

Over the past 30 years, football3 has evolved. Today, football3 is a fair play football methodology that is used by over 70 organisations from the Common Goal Community on all continents. Across the globe, players meet, form teams, agree on rules and play football. In football3, dialogue and fair play are integral to the game.

football3 can be played by anyone, anywhere and it can be used to address any social topic. There are no referees. Instead, mediators facilitate discussions between the two teams and monitor the match. Named after its ‘three halves’ – a pre-match discussion, football game, and post-match discussion – football3 incorporates key life lessons into every match. Ideally played in mixed-gender teams, players collectively decide on the rules before the game. Following the match, they reflect on their behaviour and the behaviour of their opponents, with points awarded for goals as well as for fair play.

Since we started the football3 sessions, I can say my team members have really improved upon their life skills such as teamwork, confidence, concentration and dealing with authority.” - Anthony Asante Addo, Ghana

Since its origins in Medellín, Colombia, football3 has been further developed by organisations around the world into a comprehensive methodology to address a range of social topics, such as respect, tolerance, and peacebuilding. football3 empowers players, mediators, and coaches to take responsibility for their actions and treat others fairly. They learn to value inclusion, communication and mutual respect – both on and off the pitch.

Research shows that football3 is more efficient than traditional football programmes in promoting life skills and social inclusion, and it also promotes relationship building, fair play, social values, and gender integration. football3 is used in multiple contexts and gives the practitioners the freedom to adapt the methodology to the needs of the people they work with.

The football3 methodology is something that has been very important for us in El Salvador because it has been a way to build peace. We use this methodology of playing football with the kids to prevent violence.” - Mirna Lira, El Salvador

In recent years, football3 has been further developed with the support of FIFA, UEFA and the European Commission Common Goal Community members use football3 in their social programming and events.

  • Watch this video to find out more about football3.

There has been a considerable drive to establish football3 as a validated, hands-on tool to enhance the social learning of young people and to make football3 learning more accessible.

Several toolkits guide their readers on how to implement football3 activities. Since June 2021, a free of charge mobile course allows practitioners to learn more about football3. Connected to an in-person training with a football3 expert organisation, learners can gain certification and become football3 mediators, trainers and coaches.

football3 is a way of playing that integrates fair play, respect and dialogue directly in the game. If you are interested in driving social change through football and want to learn more about football3, visit the football3 website to sign up for the football3 mobile course.

In the future, Common Goal aims to widen the access of practitioners to football3 training, to enhance football3’s recognition by donors and institutions and to increase its social impact.

For more information on football3, get in touch with us:


Article type



Vanessa Thiele


Tuesday, June 21, 2022 - 22:13

E-Newsletter subscribe