The Sustainable Development Goals are a universal call to action for all human beings to start working on building a better world for a safe and healthy future. While the goals address large global challenges, they can only truly be achieved when each individual takes action towards the goals. In light of this, it is important to raise awareness of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This will allow individuals to understand what actionable steps can be taken to work towards the SDGs. The Foundation, through its sports programs, works towards 3 of the 17 SDGs. These are SDG 3 Good health and wellbeing, SDG 5 – Gender Equality and SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production.

Over the years, we have witnessed many like-minded organisations working towards the achievement of various SDGs through holistic sports programs. Why sport? Sport, especially team sports, has proved itself to be an effective medium that can impact a large number of people. It has the power to build a community that understands the value of working together towards a goal. 

Football for development

Most sports organisations support SDG 3 – Good health and wellbeing in the simplest form – through physical activity. Participating in sports improves physical fitness and also promotes mental well-being. Khel Khel Mein Foundation, JustForKicks, Indian Football Foundation and Right To Play are just a few of the organisations with sports-based programs for children and youth that promote healthy living and exercise. We at the Forca Goa Foundation have based all our programs on playing and training. This allows children to enjoy football and also stay healthy.

Quality Education (SDG 4) is another aspect many sports organisations focus on. In India, the Oscar Foundation has done outstanding work in providing education to underprivileged children. Their policy ‘No School – No Football’ has worked wonders by impacting over 12000 children in 9 years. Another organisation that is working tirelessly towards SDG4 and SDG5 – Gender Equality is Yuwa, a football program in rural Jharkhand. Yuwa utilises the power of the beautiful game to educate young girls prone to child marriage and human trafficking. The program helps girls realise that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to. It encourages them to follow their dreams.

Alakhpura FC in Punjab, Rani Laxmibai sports club in Sivan, The Mahila Jan Adhikar Samiti in Ajmer are some others that work closely with girls and women to empower them through football. In Goa, the Foundation is not just focussed on getting girls into the game but also on getting more female coaches and referees. Our U12 Little Gaurs League is exclusively for girls in order to increase their participation in the game.

Building a community for change

SDG 11 aims to make cities and communities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. One organisation that must be noted for their work here is the Recognise, Rise and Empower Association (RREA) based in Manipur. The organisation has managed to utilise football to bring about peace in an area that had a history of violence owing to tribal feuds. Through their program, they have made the region safe and inclusive.

The Forca Goa Foundation has made some major strides when it comes to SDG 12 – Sustainable Consumption and Production. Our biggest step was when we took the pledge to source our footballs from a Fairtrade vendor only. We are the first sports organisation in India to take such a pledge. You can read more about our journey here. Not only this, but we also teach children about sustainable consumption through workshops on waste management.

Collaboration for the goals (SDG 17) is crucial as together we can achieve more than what we achieve by ourselves. A key aspect through our programs has been partnerships with different organisations/individuals who can add value to our sessions. Whether it’s a nutritionist sharing knowledge about healthy eating with children or an international organisation like UNESCO helping us reach out to children, partnerships contribute to the progress of our goals. Another organisation that makes use of partnerships to make a global impact is Coaches Across Continents. They have partnered with Slum Soccer in India. CAC provides guidance and knowledge to the coaches at Slum Soccer. It helps them learn and solve any issues they might face on the field.

These are just a few out of the thousands of sports organisations that are working towards one or more SDGs. While the Coronavirus had thrown us off track, we are sure that not just these few, but each and every organisation is striving to do their best for a sustainable future.

The Forca Goa Foundation was officially launched on 28th February, 2018. We had the honour of having our Founder, Non-Executive Chair and FC Goa President Akshay Tandon, and FC Goa co-owner Virat Kohli introducing the Foundation to the world by launching a special commemorative FC Goa jersey at an FC Goa match.

The Foundation, while launched officially in 2018, had actually begun laying the groundwork for grassroots development the year prior. Inspired by the footballing culture and the passion fans had for the sport, we saw an opportunity to use the game as a tool for community development while simultaneously developing the sport at the grassroots level.

With this two-fold vision, we reached out to thousands of children across the state through football festivals, leagues and coaching centers. We introduced them to the game and to important life skills like nutrition, waste segregation and gender equality. We use the shared culture of football to bring the community together and empower youth to be agents of change.

Over the years, we have built holistic programs for different communities based on their needs. Our programs bring a sense of empowerment and sustainability to the sport. 

What’s football without some competition! The element of competition makes training more fun. This is why we initiated a baby league for children. The Little Gaurs League provides a competitive and safe environment for children to test and develop their skills. In only its second season, the Little Gaurs League became the biggest baby league in Western India. Not just that, it became one of the top ten leagues in the country accredited by the AIFF.

We have also had the opportunity to work with some amazing organisations in the sphere of football and sustainable development. We can proudly say that we won the award for ‘Best Action towards Sustainable Development Goals’ at the Global Goals World Cup 2019. Not just that, the EU Ambassador to India also felicitated us for our efforts to champion the Fairtrade movement. More recently, we received a grant from UNESCO for our ‘At Home Football’ program.

What started as a community initiative is steadily growing into a platform for grassroots football in the country. As we celebrate 3 years since the launch of the Foundation, we can’t help feel excited about what more we can do in the future.

50% of girls who participate in some kind of sports experience higher than average levels of self-esteem as well as are less likely to face depression. Playing sports is one of the biggest learning experiences that children should not miss out on and Indians have started understanding this. In the past year, we have come across many stories of girls breaking stereotypes and playing football. Their development shows how we as a country are improving when it comes to girls getting equal opportunities in football.

In Delhi, ‘My Angels Academy’ is working with children living in the slums. They provide children with proper guidance and theoretical, moral and practical knowledge with the help of football. Through their holistic program, they have made giant strides towards their goals. The girls’ team is also making its mark by defeating teams from other schools.

What is also heartwarming to see is when communities step forward to help the overall development of girls by leveraging sports. The Alakhpura village has become a hub of promising female football players. Most of them have represented their state or the nation. This footballing revolution started in 2008, under the guidance of Goverdan Das – a former sports teacher. The efforts are not just limited to the team. Even the villagers contribute to the team to make sure that the girls have access to the resources required. Their belief in the girls has played a pivotal role in helping Aalkhpura FC gain national recognition.

Yet another example of girls developing leadership skills, understanding the importance of teamwork and goal setting can be seen in the girls from Rani Laxmibai sports club. They’ve learned how to face adverse situations and come out triumphant while pursuing your passion. The sports club was started by a local government school teacher who saw the potential of the girls hailing from the village – Siwan. But when they played, the girls faced harassment from young boys and criticism from the villagers. After fighting stereotypes and standing up for themselves, there are now over 100 girls who play football regularly.

While some are fighting stereotypes to play for their nation, others are using football to abolish social issues such as child marriage. The Mahila Jan Adhikar Samiti in Ajmer is combating this very issue through the beautiful game. Their program helps instill in girls a sense of self-confidence and make them aware of their rights. Their success is noteworthy, to say the least! The program has over 400 girls now. 4 of them also tried out for the U-17 FIFA World Cup. 

These are just some of the examples that make India proud. We hope they pave the way to make sports an equal playing field. Here in Goa, the Foundation is constantly working to increase the number of girls involved in the sport – whether they are players, coaches or referees. Our aim is to help them grow into confident individuals who can develop valuable skills like leadership and teamwork. 

You can read more about our initiatives here. To read more about Indian football and the growth of grassroots football do read our Call to Action paper: Growing With The Game.

Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for children and youth. But during the lockdown children were largely affected as schools closed and sports came to a halt. Amidst the pandemic, there was a large number of children who were unable to go out and play football. To encourage them to train with the help of certified coaches, the Foundation came up with the ‘At Home Football’ program. A program that would be easy to access while being fun for the children.

The first phase of the ‘At Home Football’ program was successful. We are proud to announce that we now have the support of UNESCO for the next phase. In the second phase, we have reached out to 3 schools in Goa and provide the online program to 120 children. Our coaches send videos to the children through WhatsApp. They also provide individual feedback to every child in the program and help them improve their skills with each session. 

The UNESCO grant received by the Foundation aims to provide support to Non-Profit Youth and/or Sports-based organisations. It assists NGO’s working towards minimising the negative impact of Covid-19, especially on children and youth. We are extremely happy to know that the Foundation’s work resonates with UNESCO’s vision and look forward to continuously helping children develop with the game.

Click here to read more about the Foundation’s work.

The Generation Amazing festival was held from 2nd to 4th December and hosted young people from across the world. Discussions revolved around global issues and showcased the capacity of sports, especially football, to drive positive social change. One of the workshops “Sport and youth in turbulent times” was organised by the International Platform for Sports and Development. Ishita Godinho, Community Development and Communications Manager at Forca Goa Foundation was a panellist at this workshop. She was representing both the Foundation and the UNESCO Youth and Sport Task Force. The other panelists were representatives from ‘Commonwealth Youth Sport for Development and Peace Network’ and ‘Foundation for Sport Development and Peace Youth Network’.

The conversation was focused on the way sport for development organisations can stay connected with the youth in the middle of the pandemic. Ishita started the conversation by speaking about the Youth and Sport Task Force as well as the Forca Goa Foundation. She explained how we are trying to make a positive difference through community-based activities. She also talked about the fact that both organisations are using their programs to champion the UN SDGs. The panel further discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each of the panelists talked about its effect on their work and how they adjusted their programs accordingly. 

Impact of the Pandemic

Ishita talked about our work with the various relief organisations that were helping daily workers and migrants by providing them with ration and essential items. She further explained about the Foundation’s ‘At Home Football Program’ and its inception. We knew that there were children who were at home and unable to train or play. Some of them did not even have access to the technology required for online classes. So we developed the ‘At Home Football Program’. We made it available on WhatsApp – one of the most common mediums of communications used today. When asked if there was any way technology has changed the way the Foundation conducts programs, Ishita talked about the fact that technology was a boon that helped us stay connected to the children. But as a sports organisation we realise the importance and benefits of going out and playing on the pitch.

The panelists further discussed the future of sports for development entities. The general consensus was that the need for such programs will continue in the future as well. Ishita touched upon the fact that we regularly receive inquiries from parents about the start of on-ground sessions. This shows that parents have realised the value of regular play in their child’s life. We have a long way to go, especially due to the setback of the COVID-19 pandemic. She also gave a parting piece of advice for other youth groups and networks. Ishita talked about elite footballers who are using their influence to talk about important social issues. She further gave examples of Megan Rapinoe supporting LGBTQ rights and equality in sports, and of Marcus Rashford and his quest for zero hunger in the UK.

A year full of varied experiences and learnings – that’s what the 2019-20 session was for us at the Forca Goa Foundation. From New York to South Korea to the United Kingdom, we shared our beliefs with and learnt from many organizations and football passionate individuals. We even spread out our wings across Goa with the Little Gaurs League, the biggest children’s league in Goa and one of the Top 10 Golden Baby Leagues in the country.

Beginning with a Bang!
Visit to Premier Skills Primary Stars Project in England

We started the season with an opportunity to visit England and learn about the Premier Skills Primary Stars Project. Our Senior Manager Nathaniel D’costa visited the Premier League Headquarters. There he engaged and interacted with people who have conceptualized and successfully implemented the project. Nathaniel is also a Premier Skills Coach Educator. Along with another coach educator, he conducted a British Council funded workshop in Shillong for 20 coaches. We were extremely delighted to receive some great positive feedback from the participants.

Global Goals World cup team

September was a busy month for us. Early in the month we attended the SDG Funshop, an International Conclave organized by UNESCO and held in Seoul, South Korea. Our Community Development Manager, Ishita Godinho, qualified to be a part of the event. There, she got to interact with like-minded sports advocates across different countries. The attending members are now a part of the UNESCO Youth and Sport Task Force and they continuously share knowledge with each other. We also got an opportunity to represent India at the Global Goals World Cup in New York. Our team came back with the most prestigious award of the event – Best Action Towards Sustainable Development Goals.

The Little Gaurs League
Little Gaurs League

Immediately after, we started preparations for the Little Gaurs League in Goa. Spread across three zones, the League saw participation from 109 teams! The number of participating girls increased from 5 last year to 241! Do take a look at our Annual Report to check out which teams won. Additionally, we started a new initiative working with four communities across Goa. The aim is to use the power of football and bring about change. 

In February 2020, we got the opportunity to present our work towards the Sustainable Development Goals to his excellency Ugo Astuto, European Union Ambassador. He lauded our commitment towards sustainable consumption and production for sourcing Fairtrade footballs for all our programs. We also celebrated International Women’s Day (8th March), with the ‘Girls Score Goals’ tournament. The aim was to provide girls with a platform to play and compete.

Impact of the Pandemic

Come April, we had to put our plans on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we had the privilege of helping volunteers and NGO’s with backend support as they religiously worked to provide food and essentials to the migrant population in Goa. The impact of the pandemic has been huge on grassroots sports. But we at Forca Goa Foundation are determined to do our best for the development of the game.

You can access our Annual Report here for full details of our work.

Countdown is a global event powered by TED and Future Stewards to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. The goal is to build a better future by cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 in the race to a zero-carbon world. Countdown seeks to answer 5 fundamental, interconnected questions that can help form a blueprint for a cleaner future and turn ideas into action. 

Energy: How rapidly can we switch to 100% clean power?

Transport: How can we upgrade the way we move people and things?

Materials: How can we re-imagine and re-make the stuff around us?

Food: How can we spark a worldwide shift to healthier food systems?

Nature: How do we better protect and re-green the earth?

India has the highest youth population in the world and South Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions prone to climate change. The actions we take now will affect the future of our world. We understand how crucial it is for all of us to take actions to protect our environment. Therefore, we have partnered with Ted Countdown to join the race to a zero carbon world and become a climate champion. While we are training children to become better players, we also feel that we need to take strong action to build a better future for them.

The Foundation annually works with over 3000 children. Our aim is to make them aware of socially relevant issues through the medium of football. Through our initiatives and workshops we champion 3 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals; SDG3 – Good Health and Wellbeing, SDG5 – Gender Equality and SDG12 – Sustainable Production and Consumption. The children participating in our programs understand the need for waste management and sustainability. We look forward to sharing knowledge about climate change with them. This will empower them to take the small but necessary steps towards a greener future.

Ted Countdown launches on 10th October 2020 with a global virtual event. This will consist of talks, interviews and performances by thought leaders, scientists, naturalists, policymakers and business leaders from around the world. With these conversations, we all can collectively identify solutions that can help the world recover from the climate crisis.

Join us on the 10th of October. Let’s talk about the impact we are creating, the changes we can make and the actions we can take.

Long before Brandon Fernandes became the star midfielder, one of the best the country has produced – his story began at a football club called Fransa-Pax. When the club got disbanded he moved to Velsao Pale Sports Club and played for their under 14 side when he was just 8 years old!

It is at the grassroots and youth level where one can start seeing the origins of a true champion. The community that he or she grows up in, the hurdles they face, the support system, the mentors, the first goal, the biggest defeat, the limited means, the unlimited aspirations all add up to the story of a dream too big to seem achievable but too good to not go all-in!

We at the Foundation are extremely grateful that we get to celebrate the young footballers in all our initiatives. Children’s sports need strong focus and attention if India is to become a sporting powerhouse, and we have just the right partner to help us applaud the stories in grassroots football!

The Bridge is a digital media house extensively covering the unheard aspects of Indian Sports through impactful storytelling. They are passionate to bring about a change in the sports ecosystem.

We welcome The Bridge as our digital media partner and we hope together we can inspire young players to grow with the game, bring smiles to the parents that believe in their children’s dreams and celebrate the coaches that go above and beyond to create a strong culture for football in India.

FC Goa Co-owner and President, Akshay Tandon was recently in an interview with Star Sports commentator and presenter Anant Tyagi. They discussed various topics around ISL and Indian football including the work done and vision of the Forca Goa Foundation.

Akshay, who is also the Founder and Non-Executive Chairman of the Forca Goa Foundation, explained how the organization started. He talked about having a separate think tank for grassroots and creating technical knowledge as well as initiating our own leagues.

Vision of the Foundation

The Forca Goa Foundation wants to try and plug the gaps in the grassroots ecosystem of Indian football. The goal is to use the initiatives built in Goa as a model for others to replicate. To that effect, Akshay mentioned that the Foundation is planning to launch a fellowship program for coaches from all over the country. This will allow coaches to learn and gain knowledge about how to create a footballing ecosystem. They can then replicate this model in their own states with guidance from the Foundation.

Akshay also highlighted the big gaps that need to be filled; co-ed grassroots training, good coach education and better infrastructure. The Foundation’s objective is to address these gaps and see what it could do to fill them within the Indian footballing ecosystem.

Importance of Community Engagement

Answering a fan’s question – “What is stopping India according to you from becoming a powerhouse in world football and what FC Goa can do to improve or overcome that?”, Akshay used the Forca Goa Foundation as an example. He stated that we need to transition to sustainable models; where the community drives support behind not just the clubs, but also the leagues, the state associations. Football itself needs to drive that support. This happens at the grassroots level with more and more communities getting involved, which is where the Foundation acts as a stepping stone in the right direction.

Akshay also stressed upon the work done by the Foundation with respect to Women’s Football. Working with girls from the ages of 6 to 12, the Foundation has been advocating the need to make the sport an equal playing field. By doing so, the Foundation has been planting seeds to provide opportunities for the girls to make it into the clubs’ youth teams in the years to come.

Read more about the Foundation’s work.
You can also watch the full interview here.

According to UEFA, “Grassroots football is football played by the masses at a level where participation and a love of the game are the driving forces”. For the Foundation, grassroots football means organised football for children under the age of 12 – where the young players grow up playing the game locally as well as regularly, in a safe and inclusive environment. 

It is widely known that the best time for children to start playing football is between the ages of 3-5. Let’s take a deeper look at why starting at such a tender age is important. When children start playing from a young age, they start with exploring the game without the guidelines and the rules. They learn to move with a ball with their feet and develop their balance while doing so. 

It quickly becomes a second nature for them to have a ball at their feet. Something which tends to be advantageous in their future as football players. This is because ball coordination skills are the stepping stone to becoming a good player. The earlier a player knows the basics, the more time he/she can spend in learning and mastering new and more complex skills. 

We asked the coaches who fielded teams in the Little Gaurs League for their views on children starting young. “I strongly believe we should start training children starting at the age of 5 and build a strong base so that children can grow with the game and develop their footballing skills as best as possible”, says Gajanand Kauthankar, Coach Green Meadow School Goa and Green Meadow School United teams. 

David Navein. R, coach of Play Goa also feels that sowing the seed of football at a young age and regular training can be beneficial for a child’s future as a football player.

Furthermore, the amount of hours that children put into practice by the time they are playing as teenagers gives them the ability and confidence to execute moves intuitively. As the players become habituated to move with a ball at their feet, they can learn to focus on gameplay and strategic aspects enabling them to be completely aware of the game, their opponents’ weaknesses as well as their teammates’ strengths. 

India is one of the youngest countries in the world. In the 2011 census, the percentage of children under 14 years of age was 29.5%. According to a study done in 2016, only half of the children and youth in India indulge in some sort of physical activity on a daily basis. The others lead a sedentary lifestyle, spending a lot of time watching TV or playing video games, not knowing the importance of physical well-being. There is a very small percentage of children and youth who regularly play football. 

The reason behind this gap is the lack of a footballing culture throughout the country. As former Spain midfielder, Luis García pointed out – “India’s sporting culture needs to be changed in order to improve the standard of the game in the country”. And the best way to build this culture is through regular football programmes starting with children. Indian football requires players who watch the game and play the sport from the early stages of their life. 

We as a nation do not lack talent when it comes to football, but in order for India to showcase its footballing strength, we need to focus on developing the game at the grassroots.