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Just Play extends reach to India

The relationship between OFC and FFA has remained strong since FFA left OFC in 2006. FFA and the Australian Government have supported the Just Play Programme since its launch on 2009. Since entering the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), FFA has also built a strong relationship with the All India Football Federation (AIFF), and after the success of Just Play in the Pacific, FFA suggested launching Just Play in India. OFC agreed to support FFA’s proposal.
Kieran Lilley, the International and Government Relations Coordinator of FFA, and Franck Castillo, Head of International Relations & Social Responsibility at OFC, travelled to India and met with AIFF, the India Central Government, Kerala Football Association, and the Government of Kerala from the 18-22 January.
AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das, Technical Director Scott O’Donell and FIFA Regional Development Officer, Dr. Shaji Prabhakaran were all present, and showed strong interest and support for the development of the Just Play programme in India.
O’Donell explained, “Just Play gives us an opportunity to help expand our Grassroots programme through the schools via PE teachers and outside schools, through our Grassroots leaders”.
“The AIFF has already struck a chord with Just Play and we are planning a pilot project in association with Just Play in the State of Kerala soon.”
There was also a meeting with the Sport Authority of India, a government institution, which will provide national facilities to contribute to the running of the programme.
The pilot programme will be implemented in one school in each of the 14 districts of Kerala. With AIFF’s approval, FFA and OFC selected Kerala for the pilot programme because Kerala Football is a well administered and professional association, Kerala has the highest literacy rate in India, and the state’s education system is excellent. Kochi, one of the main cities of Kerala, has been selected for the pilot due to its size which makes the pilot more manageable. Kochi is also one of the six cities involved in the organisation of the U-17 World Cup in 2017.
A steering committee for the implementation of the pilot will be established in Kerala and it will be tasked with selecting the social issues which will be targeted through the OFC Just Play Programme. At national level, hygiene and gender equality will be the pillars of the programme, but the committee has until the 31 March to provide specific messaging for inclusion in the curriculum.
The Government of Kerala agreed to play an active role in the Just Play programme by having a representative on the steering committee.
While FFA and OFC will assist AIFF and control the quality of the programme, Just Play India will be developed by people in India, for people in India. Building on from the experience in the Pacific, the programme design recognises that the most critical factor in ensuring long term success as well as sustainability is local ownership of the programme.
Castillo is confident that the OFC Just Play will be a success in India.
“The response we have had during the trip is really promising,” Castillo enthuses.
“There are good people who will look after the OFC Just Play Programme and make sure it is a success for the good of children throughout India.”
“The impending arrival of Just Play in India is already getting a lot of attention in the media in Kerala and we are getting a lot of positive feedback following the announcement.”
Just Play is a sport for development programme designed to target children aged 6-12 years. Through the OFC Just Play Programme children learn, grow and explore sport in a positive and meaningful way. Through the integration of social messages into all sessions and activities, children learn to develop healthy lifestyle habits, include people with disabilities, support and encourage gender equality and increase their school and community engagement.
The expansion of the OFC Just Play Programme into India has been made possible because of the support of the Australian Government and the UEFA Foundation for Children.

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