By Junko Mitani
Girls play football at Savelugu Junior Secondary School in the Northern Region of Ghana. National abolition of school fees in 2005 has increased access to education for children in the country.
At the FIFA Women’s World Cup China 2007, now under way, UNICEF and longstanding partner FIFA have launched a campaign highlighting the key role that sport and child-friendly schools play in helping girls overcome social barriers and transform their lives. This is one in a series of stories about young women around the world.
TAMALE CITY, Ghana, 26 September 2007 – Accomplished football player and Goodwill Ambassador Marcel Desailly recently visited the Northern Region of Ghana with UNICEF to encourage children, especially young girls, to play football and go to school.
In Ghana’s Tamale City, girls from two different school football teams were thrilled to receive a personal football lesson from Mr. Desailly himself.
Kubira Abdul-Rahman, 15, was delighted that the footballer had taken the time to shown her how to control and pass a ball. “He let us kick a ball to him! It was the first time in my life I have received a ball from a top professional footballer like Mr. Desailly. I will never forget this,” said Kubira.
Amina Fuseini, 16, agreed. “I like the way he taught us to play football,” she said. “We practiced in a way which we have never done before.”
© UNICEF video
Sport as a part of education
Marcel Desailly says that playing football taught him self-discipline and confidence – lessons which young girls in Ghana are also learning through sport.
Tragically, Amina’s father recently passed away. Amina said he had always encouraged her to play football, and now she has made many new friends through the sport. She has also learned lessons off the field.
“By playing football, I’ve learned many things,” Amina said. “I once shouted at a teammate when she made a wrong move during a match. She later asked me not to shout because it made her feel very bad. Since then, I have stopped shouting.”
In 2005, only 35 per cent of girls attended secondary school in Ghana, as opposed to the 60 per cent who attended primary school. As Goodwill Ambassador, Mr. Desailly promotes the UN Millennium Development Goal to achieve universal primary education by 2015. He believes that young girls can benefit and grow by playing football.
“Playing football helped me to gain self-discipline, confidence, negotiation skills, teamwork and leadership. I’m glad to learn UNICEF considers sport an important part of education,” he said.