In the run-up to the 2006 World Cup in Germany, a new project headed by national soccer coach Jürgen Klinsmann aims to teach kids how to think globally and about the importance of good sportsmanship.
Kids play soccer representing the countries of their partner schools
Germans may be crazy about soccer, but that's not the only motivation behind a new program to set up "World Cup Schools" across the country. By partnering one German school with each of the 205 members of soccer's global association FIFA, organizers want to involve kids in Germany and abroad in the planet's biggest sporting event.
German national coach Jürgen Klinsmann, joined by German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, on Friday officially started the project at an elementary school in Berlin. It was there that the German schools were matched up with institutions from Azerbaijan to Zambia.
Under the title "World Cup Schools - Fair Play for Fair Life," the project will involve fifth and sixth graders from the 205 schools with their FIFA partner country for the next two years. The kids will learn about the other children from their nation and what role soccer plays there. It is hoped that besides increasing excitement for the sport and the upcoming World Cup, kids on both sides will learn about tolerance, team spirit and solving problems peacefully.
Highlighting the project's international credentials, Klinsmann played soccer with German kids in two teams representing Croatia and the Dominican Republic, on Friday, after the selection of partner schools.
The participating schools will organize regional tournaments and will take over the role of their respective countries in the summer of 2005. For example, schools with Latin American partners will represent them at a mock Copa America.
The highpoint will come a year later during the World Cup itself when 32 schools will take part in a street soccer tournament in Potsdam. Both boys and girls will play modeled on a method made popular by "Street Soccer for Tolerance," which has the players set up the rules with each other. Besides eliminating the need for referees, it also determines that goals made by boys only count when a girl also makes a goal.
Much of the project is based on the work of "streetfootballworld," an initiative to use the sport as a tool to aid development and intercultural learning for youth. The program started in Colombia in 1996 to offer kids an alternative to drugs and violence. It has since set up a global network to help celebrate and take advantage of soccer's grassroots role in many societies around the world.
Both the German government and Deutsche Welle are supporting partners of "World Cup Schools" and "streetfootballworld."