From observer to mediator: the legacy of F3 continues to be transmitted!

The 7th edition of ‘Fotbal Pro Rozvoj’ (football for development) features F3 tournaments and trains the ambassadors (6 Kenyan and 6 Czech young volunteers) to become mediators!

Besides street performances, workshops and public debates, the team participates in different fair play football tournaments around the Czech Republic. The tournaments are facilitated by the ambassadors, usually in a Czech-Kenyan tandem. The tandem is in charge of coordinating the matches, encouraging the dialogue between the players and guiding the teams in choosing technical and fair-play rules. Here is a brief account of their progress in becoming effective mediators.

As I first asked them, what would be there reaction if one of their team-mates would score an own goal, all of them responded with positive empathy, but none of them imagined that an own goal could release so much hatred as to kill someone. Tragically enough this is what happened to Colombian Defender, Andres Escobar, after he scored an own goal during the World Cup 94.
The ambassadors’ faces suddenly turned pale and realised that their passion for the beautiful game can also be used for horrible crimes beyond the pitch. Nevertheless, it is indeed beyond the pitch that football can prove to be useful and meaningful to people. This year the campaign applies the concept of ‘fair-play’ football, which developed after the death of Andres Escobar.
What was then called football for peace in Colombia is nowadays a common model in many countries around the world, under the name streetfootball, fair-play football or F3 football. This alternative to traditional football fosters values such as dialogue, cooperation, tolerance and self-determination. This is achieved via a system of 3-halves, coordinated by mediators. The teams gather in the first half to determine the rules together, the second half is the game in it-self and the third half leaves space for a post-discussion about the positive and negative aspects of the game and rules used.

For most of our ambassadors this concept was new and many only knew about traditional technical rules and not ‘fair-play’ rules. But what was for me the biggest challenge was not to teach them the structure or technical aspects, but more to teach them to become mediators and ambassadors of ‘fair-play’ football, especially in terms of the values and skills which can be obtained through this alternative football. After the first 2 tournaments, lots of confusion developed among the team. Many players didn’t take part in mediation and most of them actually considered being fair-play as being the losers or being the ones pitied, considering their weak football level or younger team age. Eventually it even led the team to deliberately lose during the second tournament, in order to be considered for fair-play trophy. The paradox is that the fair-play trophy became for a moment a competitive trophy. This reminded us that football in all its forms remains a sport with losers and winners. And as our responsible for PR, Jitka Hausenblasova even notified me, despite the alternative football played, the public as the players remains passionate about mainstream football and never hesitate to remind the teams about the traditional rules, such as off-sides, corners, throw-in, etc…

But by the next tournament in Hrebeny (close to German boarder), after an intensive debrief, where we discussed again the concept of fair-play football and rectified the misunderstandings, focusing on the values and life skills featured, most of our ambassadors realised their mistakes. Their reaction during the action day was encouraging. Most of the players contributed to mediation and showed the fair-play example during the matches. This was well reflected on the other teams, as they also actively contributed to this new approach to football. A very symbolic example came at the 3rd half of an early game in Hrebeny, when a younger player who was bullied during the game by an older team-mate, initiated a new rule that anyone insulting someone on the pitch should do 3 push-ups as a sanction. This rule was then accepted and well respected by all the players throughout the tournament. It was a nice example, how fair-play football can give authority to someone, who is more prone to be vulnerable.
The success of Hrebeny led place to optimism regarding the understanding of ‘fair-play’. This latter notion even became common use in the daily vocabulary, as the ambassadors oftenreferred to it regarding for example the equal sharing of food or the reasonable use of showers.

Nevertheless, the evidence is that being a mediator is a long term process and it takes more than a few games to grasp all the values, which F3 promotes on and beyond the pitch.
The campaign is organised by INEX - Association for Voluntary Activities in cooperation with youth work and community development organisations. It is supported by the Czech Development Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic under the Programme of International Development Cooperation.

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