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Shining a sport-light on the value of grassroots football

Author: Gabriel Tabona
Copyrights: Gabriel Tabona

Shining a sport-light on the value of grassroots football

The SFD sector can optimise inter-generational interactions, sphere of influence and political goodwill to magnify the importance of grassroots football.

While football at the higher level is fighting to reclaim its integrity through the FIFA 2.0 blue-print and with the appointment of a high commissioner to spearhead Confederation of African Football (CAF) reforms, it offers the sport for development (SFD) sector a daunting task to spearhead progressive transformations in community based football.

Organisations in the SFD sector can position their influence to seamlessly link professional football with amateur football through three different capacities.

SFD can be organisers of inter-generational interactions. Through dialogues and friendly matches between amateur and professional teams, players and coaches from different age-groups get to learn from each others experiences and what it entails for one to not only reach their dreams but also be responsible sports athletes beyond their technical and tactical abilities. For instance, millennials can be mentored by baby-boomers on handling spectator expectations, fame, and self-esteem and on-pitch failure.

Sphere of influence is another capacity in which the SFD can establish their importance. While professional football dedicates much of its efforts to the high performance of its players, it becomes a stepping stone for the SFD sector to explore important public-private partnerships that can easily harness grassroot football’s powerful access to amateur players’ families, communities, schools and political representatives who are important stakeholders in CSR engagements. During Everton FC’s pre-season tour of Kenya, they conducted health workshops with grassroots football clubs in Nairobi’s Kariobangi North estate, a testament that commercial pursuits alone don't guarantee return on investment.

Political goodwill in enforcing macro and micro legislative instruments are essential capacities for the growth of grassroots football. It can become a framework through which sustainable football development programmes can be maximised to their full potential. Nairobi County Government itself passed a county sports act to mirror a national government version of the same. Such laws are enablers for improvements of sports infrastructure like the newly refurbished Dandora Stadium, which has the potential of not only improving football standards but also acting as social integration hubs where positive energies can be directed towards thematic issues like crime prevention, environmental education and healthy living.

The three capacities can help the SFD sector in taking a leading role to demonstrate the contribution of community based football to professional teams.

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Thursday, September 19, 2019 - 15:24