Qatar Shell and the FC Barcelona Foundation FutbolNet programme recently won ‘Best Sport Youth Development Initiative’ at the Sports Industry Awards 2014 in Dubai.
With nine finalists shortlisted from 150 submissions in this category, the judges honoured FutbolNet with a Silver Award for its tangible contributions to the development of regional grass roots youth participation in sports. The programme’s level of social inclusivity and community engagement were also taken into account as part of the awarding process.
In December 2013, Qatar Shell, Qatar Football Association and the FC Barcelona Foundation launched the second season of Il’Ab We’Yana, the Arabic for ‘Play with us’, which is an extra-curricular school programme based on the FutbolNet methodology. Il’Ab We’Yana uses football as a means to develop healthy habits and positive behavioural change by providing children with four extra hours of non-competitive physical education per week.
In an effort to help address the region’s wider health and social challenges Qatar Shell collaborated with the FC Barcelona Foundation and its partners, the Qatar Football Association (QFA), the Ministry of Youth & Sports in Iraq, and the Ministry of Education and Sports Affairs in Oman, to set up this progressive initiative that targets fostering youth activity across the region.
Known in Iraq and Oman as FutbolNet and as Il’Ab We’Yana in Qatar, the programme has so far reached an impressive number of children in all three countries and aims to inspire many more in 2014. In Qatar, around 20 per cent of those who have taken part so far have been girls and programme leaders hope to match this figure in Iraq and Oman.
Pressing regional health challenges have rendered initiatives such as Il’Ab We’Yana ever more crucial due to the fact that in Qatar alone around one in five people live with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Additionally, the UAE currently ranks in the top 10 countries afflicted by the disease and with diabetes on the rise among young people, the International Diabetes Federation figures suggest case numbers could increase by 96 per cent within the next decade.
Some of the main causes of diabetes include bad eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle. This is often a direct result of the ever growing popularity of computer games and other technology among the youth, leading to a decline in their sports activity and positive social development.
Diego Perez, Social Performance Manager of Shell Middle East & North Africa, said: “We are keen to deliver a Social Investment project that supports human capacity building among young people in Qatar, Iraq and Oman. FutbolNet is perfect for this as it is programme that can be tailored to the needs of young people in these respective countries.”
Perez also explained why the beautiful game of football is the ideal vehicle for addressing regional health issues. “Football is the most popular sport in the world and everyone loves it and has probably played the game at some stage in their life,” he said. “Given that we want to make it easier for young people to get active, lose weight and stay in shape it makes sense to use the sport they are most likely to enjoy. Therefore this award would have not been possible without the support and hard work of the QFA and the government football organisations in Iraq and Oman.”
Khalid Mubarak Al-Kuwari, Director of Marketing & Communications at Qatar Football Association, said: “Il’Ab We’Yana and Koora Time are amongst our key community initiatives, and we, at QFA and Qatar Shall, are honoured to have won this prestigious award in recognition of the program’s contribution to increasing youth participation in sports. We are proud to be following steady steps towards achieving our goals and strategic objectives.”
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