BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 30, 2021– A tidal shift may be occurring in the attitude to sports in schools, football in particular, by educational authorities in Belize. For years sports have been treated as an afterthought by a number of educational institutions, and the meagre budget traditionally allocated for sports development by the relevant government ministry did little to change that attitude, despite the global recognition of the importance of sports, not only in youth development, but also as an industry with economic potential for individuals as well as the nation. With little emphasis on the importance of skills development of young student athletes over the years, and only a hastily completed primary school tournament that features mostly the older students of standards five and six, it has been generally agreed that Belize’s sports talent is not being maximized, and important development years are often wasted by poor technical supervision and training.
Hopefully, a major change for the better has arrived, because yesterday in Belmopan, both Government ministries of Youth, Sports and E-Governance and of Education, Culture, Science and Technology signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) for the implementation of its “Football for Schools” program. Signing on behalf of the Ministry of Sports was National Sports Council Director, Ian Cal; on behalf of the Ministry of Education, CEO Dian Castillo-Maheia; and on behalf of the FFB, President Sergio Chuc.
A four-year project launched by FIFA in collaboration with UNESCO, the “Football for Schools” program focuses on the development of football skills, football values and social skills for male and female primary and secondary school kids between the ages of 5 years to 15 years. In the 5 to 7 years group, the focus will be on technical development with the ball; for the 8 to 11 year olds the emphasis will be on technical development within a team environment; and in the 12 to 15 years group special attention will be given to tactical and physical development.
With collaboration among the three entities beginning from early this year, the Planning Stage has now been completed with the signing of the MOU; the Preparation Stage with the training of teachers will now follow until August; and then the project really gets started with the Roll Out of “Football for Schools” when classes are expected to resume in September of this year.
The assistance to be provided by FIFA through the FFB will target 100 schools this year 2021, 150 schools in 2022, 200 schools in 2023, and 250 schools in 2024. That assistance will involve providing online tool kits as well as online training for coach educators, teachers and coaches, footballs and training equipment for participating schools, and technical support in the development of national football school events.
For their part, both government ministries will authorize their respective personnel to attend the relevant courses and training sessions. The Ministry of Sports will also assist with the use of sports facilities and areas, while the Ministry of Education will facilitate the staging of theoretical classes for the realization of the project.
The overall Project Vision is to lay a “solid football foundation” by introducing “quality technical development” through providing “training for coaches and officials” and establishing “Grassroots and Youth domestic leagues.”
In signing the MOU, both government ministries pledged their full cooperation, support and partnership with the FFB for the successful roll out and implementation of the Football for Schools program over the next four years.
The execution of the program will be coordinated by a working committee comprised of one delegate each from the Football Federation of Belize, Ministry of Youth, Sports and E-Governance and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology.