The UN International Day of Education takes place annually on 24 January; Its theme for 2024 is ‘Learning for a lasting peace’; We shine a spotlight today on FIFA’s Football for Schools programme (

The International Day of Education celebrates the vital role that education plays in peace and human development and was launched by the United Nations in 2018. 

A year later, in September 2019, Puerto Rico became the first country to adopt FIFA Football for Schools (F4S), FIFA's programme that aims to contribute to the development of millions of children around the world by incorporating football and life skills as part of everyday schooling.

Football for Schools (F4S), in collaboration with UNESCO, aims to contribute to the education, development and empowerment of around 700 million children. It seeks to make football more accessible to both boys and girls around the world by incorporating football activities into the education system, in partnership with relevant authorities and stakeholders. The programme has been designed to promote targeted life skills and competencies through football and contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other priorities. Currently, 105 countries have joined the initiative.

In addition to this impressive number of signed-up nations, tens of millions of children have been positively affected by F4S. And it is these children that the programme aims to support and nurture, by incorporating football-related activities into the education system, with an overriding goal of making the sport more accessible to young people. “The objective is to create a link between education and football by ensuring that children’s introduction to kicking a ball around is as fun as possible, and by teaching them essential life skills,” explained Football for Schools Director Fatimata Sidibe.

Fatimata Sidibe, what does this United Nations International Day of Education mean to you?

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 24 January International Education Day to celebrate the role of education in peace and development. Football for Schools is a programme that aims to link education with football by making children's first contact with the ball fun, as well as teaching them life skills.

This date is very significant for us because it places education at the centre of attention and raises awareness among stakeholders to support transformative actions in favour of inclusive, equitable and quality education for all.

Education and sport play a key role in children's well-being and in building sustainable and resilient societies, transforming lives and breaking the cycle of poverty that traps so many children.

What can such a F4S programme bring to children?

In addition to the material aspects of F4S (a digital application), the F4S programme also has intangible effects on children, the impact of which is more subtle.

Children aged between 4 and 14 - the target age group of the F4S programme - are like modelling clay or young shrubs: flexible, and quick to absorb. The lessons they learn when they are still young shape and educate them, so they grow up with the values of self-respect, friendship, love of football and love of sport in general. 

Through the training provided by educators using F4S techniques, children learn to know themselves and the world better, to learn to live in harmony with others and to take responsibility for their own health and well-being. Football is much more than just a sport. 

How does FIFA contribute to the education and emancipation of boys and girls?

Football is not only a universal sport, it also has an extraordinary power to unite and integrate society, to educate and emancipate boys and girls. FIFA harnesses this power to give children from all over the world and from different backgrounds the opportunity to play and learn.

FIFA has many educational and social programmes. Sport has a key role to play. It has the power to transmit joy, passion, and friendship, offers an invaluable alternative to the stresses of everyday life and facilitates the cognitive development of boys and girls. 

Educating girls is essential: an educated mother will ensure that her children go to school and stay there. This is fundamental, especially when you consider that more than 250 million children and young people in the world do not go to school and that most of those who attend school do not acquire basic skills.

Through the F4S programme, FIFA trains teachers in the techniques of sport and life skills, who in turn instil them in their children, thus helping to make them the citizens of tomorrow. F4S also helps to redress inequalities and injustices by ensuring that all learners are represented and recognised in all facets of education and sport.

As director of FIFA F4S, what could be the medium- and long-term impact of this programme?

Football for Schools (F4S) is a mass participation programme for children. 

In the medium term, integrating football into the national education system and school curricula will contribute to social change and help children to become better citizens. 

Through the learning of intrapersonal and cognitive skills, interpersonal skills, active citizenship skills and healthy behaviours, children will develop personal development skills and contribute to sustainable development goals.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FIFA.

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