Tahiti football club, AS Dragon, has embraced the ethos of football being a sport for all with its award-winning “Football Pour Tous” programme.

The club was this week announced as the winners of the national challenge within the Federation Education Programme (Federal Programme Educatif, P.E.F.), run by the Federation Tahitienne de Football (FTF), with a programme which ensures the inclusion of young people with disabilities.

With the overall theme of socially-responsible civic engagement, Dragon’s U-15 squad developed a programme which saw them engage with people from the community with Down Syndrome.

The game they developed was 12-hole foot golf and saw the Dragon players paired up with a counterpart from Papa Nui Centre, and the objective was to get through the course with the least amount of touches per hole.

Nicolas Broseus, AS Dragon football academy director, said the squad wanted to focus on the basics of football with their new teammates.

“We focused on passing, long passes and short passes, and with obstacles,” Broseus said.

“Eventually we want to see these young people playing a game of football, which is why we started with passing and Foot Golf. We could see the pleasure and enjoyment they were getting from the game, and that’s what we wanted to focus on, rather than competition.”

The benefits of the programme could be seen on both sides of the partnerships, as U-13 Dragon midfielder, Puheitiny explained.

“Sorry for everyone else, but I picked Kahealani as soon as I heard she’s a ping-pong champion! I knew she’d pick things up quickly, and I was right,” Puheitiny enthused, “she learns so quickly.”

As part of their application, AS Dragon explained why they developed “Football Pour Tous”.

“It’s a project where all the values of the Fédération Française de Football; Pleasure, Respect, Tolerance and Solidarity, are present. The overall objective was to change the perception of this disability.”

François Quiquet, a teacher at Papa Nui Centre, said having a disability is often looked at in a negative light, and people don’t always know how to approach a person with a disability.

“Part of today’s activities is to provide an opportunity for these young footballers to understand what life is like for these youngsters with disabilities, and to eventually realise that they’re not, in fact, that different to themselves.”

Broseus said the similarities between the groups were evident on the field, with all the young players smiling, enjoying themselves and engaging with each other as equals.

“The fusion between the academy players and the young people from Papa Nui, it’s just magnificent to witness.”

Jérôme Beaulande, FTF deputy technical director and DAP, said the Challenge Nationale PEF is open to all clubs in French Polynesia.

“Unfortunately we only had a response back from five different clubs, with around four or five programmes per club, and it was AS Dragon with its Golf Football for people with disabilities programme which took out the FTF regional prize,” Beaulande said.

“As their prize, they receive equipment, including balls, bibs, football tennis and golf football kits.

“There is also a DOM TOM (French territory) category and a national category and when those winners are decided, Dragon will then compete against them for the overall prize, which includes a visit to Clairefontaine.”

To learn more about how FTF uses Football Golf in its activities, check this resource out: Golf Foot en Polynésie Française