2020 has been a very unusual and challenging year for Cross Cultures due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, and it has impacted the association’s activities and basic idea at all levels.
Originally, the year began as planned. In March 2020, however, the Covid-19 pandemic led to a wave of draconian restrictions and lockdowns around the world, which were essentially about mitigating the infection by reducing social contact between people through, among other things, curfews, social distancing, assembly bans, movement restrictions, temporary school closures, etc. – all mitigation measures that challenged Cross Cultures’ basic idea of mobilizing people from diverse ethnic, social, religious and political backgrounds in order to build trust and cooperation between otherwise antagonistic populations and thereby contributing to promoting a culture of peace, non-violence, social inclusion, gender equality and child protection.
On this background, Cross Cultures facilitated a capacity assessment in cooperation with all our partner organizations worldwide. The main conclusions of this assessment were clear: During the pandemic, Cross Cultures and our partners would not be able to organize volunteer seminars and Open Fun Football Schools in accordance with the modality we have developed over the years. Rather, our immediate concerns were the mental health of children of which the majority was undergoing curfews and strict quarantine measures. Moreover, without activities we were concerned about losing organizational cohesion as well as our contact with our unique network of young dedicated volunteer leaders and coaches. Just as we had to prepare for the fact that the respective country offices would be pressured financially since their main source of income from the local and national authorities is/was tied up in specific social activities.
On this background Cross Cultures and programme partners developed a prospective mitigation strategy on short-term, mid-term and long-term:
Short-term: On short-term the challenge is/was simply to gain access to the children. Therefore the idea was born to develop a Cross Cultures Virtual Cross House where children could play e-sport (e-football tournaments) and where Cross Cultures and partners could organise different kind of break-out rooms for dialogue and life skill training. E.g. in the locker room of the virtual clubhouse, Cross Cultures and partners are organising workshops and dialogue regarding child safeguarding issues. There are virtual rooms specially designed for girls, fun football and mental training activities, e-coach education and leadership meetings.
Hence, during the spring/summer of 2020, Cross Cultures and our partners have together developed a new virtual learning platform for children and coaches so they can stay connected with each other and enjoy Cross Cultures’ fun football and life skill education in a virtual context (www.ccpaclubhouse.eu)
Mid-term: On mid-term Cross Cultures and partners have developed a plan and an approach for the reopening of the countries step-by-step. Still, Cross Cultures don’t believe it is realistic in near future to organize Open Fun Football Schools for 200 kids at the same field and at the same time. Nor is it realistic that we can organize international seminars for the volunteer coaches as we are used to with approx. 100 participants at the time.
Consequently, Cross Cultures and program partners have developed guidelines on how to organize Open Fun Football School activities in smaller groups (eg max 10 players per group) while integrating Covid-19 prevention to it – social distance, personal hygiene, fun games etc.
Therefore, all real-time activities in 2020 after the outbreak of Covid-19 have been organized in accordance with the Corona guidelines, and the figures below confirm that it has been a very useful tool. In addition, Cross Cultures is proud that our guidelines have been approved and helped provide MOYS in both Jordan and Tunisia with important inspiration in their process of developing their country-specific corona guidelines for the grassroots sector. In addition, the UEFA Foundation for Children has published the guidelines on their website as a good example of “best practice” for others to follow.
Furthermore, Cross Cultures doesn’t consider that the regional seminar approach is likely before all voluntary coaches have been vaccinated against Covid-19! Cross Cultures and partners therefore prepare for national seminars in smaller groups, BUT these seminars are implemented simultaneously so that the participants of the various seminars can meet in break-out rooms on Zoom across boundaries for joined dialogue and workshops sessions. This has of course required a completely new set up that has been tested and adjusted down the road during 2020.
Long-term: In the long-term, Cross Cultures and partners don’t know when the situation normalises again? And how “a new normal” will impact Cross Cultures and the Open Fun Football School program? But obviously, a long-term strategy will include the bridging of activities between the Open Fun Football Schools in real-time and our virtual clubhouse. But exactly, what that will be, Cross Cultures still doesn’t know.
Despite the restrictions and challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the figures below show that the level of activity among our partner organizations has been surprisingly high. Thus, we have run a total of 97 Open Fun Football Schools for 16,030 children, 354 one-day fun football festivals for 32,768 children and day-to-day training for a total of 8,124 children. Thus, in total, our local partners and volunteer trainers have implemented 5,180 Open Fun football schools, Fun Football Festivals and day-to-day training encompassing 56,922 children and a total of 346,626 days of training/so-called show-ups. All activities have been organized by an impressive cohort of 6,575 voluntary leaders and coaches!
Ie. that CCPA’s partners of volunteer coaches and managers have provided project activities for their children corresponding to approx. 60% of activity level in the 2019 season.
With few exceptions, the recorded activities have been held after the outbreak of the pandemic and they have all been organized according to the Cross Cultures Corona guidelines and with respect for the respective countries’ corona restrictions. This means that the Open Fun Football Schools, Fun Football Festivals and day-to-day activities have all been carried out according to a new “corona modality”. For example, where a football school prior to corona involved 200 children on the same football field divided into 12 groups of 16-20 children per. group, as well as 12 associated coaches, 12 coach assistants and 2 football school leaders, then the corona-adapted Open fun Football school has been cut down to comprise 50 children in five groups of max. 10 players per group as well as one school leader and five voluntary coaches.
However, the biggest challenge that CCPA has faced in relation to the corona pandemic has been in relation to our seminar modality. Thus, due to corona, it has not been possible to bring volunteer leaders and coaches from different countries and backgrounds together at the same hotel to be trained together. Hence, we have had to change our seminar format so that the number of participants in each seminar is significantly reduced, that the teaching has as far as possible taken place outdoors, that the participants have not spent the night at the course site, and that a significant theme during the seminar has been to adapt our games, exercises and life skills training to suit the corona limitations. Under this modality, 938 young volunteer leaders and coaches have been trained, and furthermore, CCPA has developed and conducted international webinars for a total of 654 people.
In this way, the overall activity figures show that the CCPA and our partners have managed to reach thousands of children in the midst of the corona restrictions. Further, CCPA and our network partners have managed to hold on to our unique platform of young dedicated volunteer leaders and coaches. But we have not managed to mobilize and train the number of new leaders and coaches that we originally planned.
Overall activities 2020:
- 97 Open Fun Football Schools for a total of 16.030 boys and girls.
- 354 Fun Festivals/Caravans for a total of 32.768 boys and girls
- 729 day-to-day trainings in Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia and Armenia and South Sudan for a total of 8.124direct beneficiaries.
- Enrolment of 6.575 voluntary coaches and coach assistants in the OFFS and Fun Football Festivals/caravans, incl. 41% women
- 29 OFFS-seminars of 3-5 days duration for a total of 938 participants (38% females)
- 22 international webinars for a total of 654 participants (45% females)
- In 2020, Cross Cultures total activities comprised:
- Open Fun Football Schools on Balkan
- Open Fun Football Schools in Trans Caucasus
- Open Fun Football Schools in Central and Eastern Europe
- FutbolNet in Lebanon
- Youth Program in Jordan, Tunisia, and Morocco
- Open Fun Football Schools in South Sudan
- Safeguarding children in Sports in Tunisia and Jordan
Overall, CCPA considers it an important highlight that we have managed to maintain our unique network of dedicated volunteer leaders and coaches in the organization, and that these on a voluntary basis have organized social fun football activities for thousands of children in their respective countries despite the corona. It shows the importance of (a) linking informal youth leadership training with tangible activities, (b) that we have succeeded in creating an attractive and meaningful environment around our networks and their activities, and (c) that most of our partners have built a local organisational structure which has proven to be viable in these difficult times of crisis.
In this light, the CCPA’s joint response on the short-term (the Cross Cultures Virtual Club House) and mid-term (the Cross Cultures Corona Guidelines) have proven to be very efficient and constructive tools in our response to the corona pandemic. However, we hope it can also help us to position ourselves on a longer-term to the day the world may come “on the other side” of Corona.
A new seminar modality
In the Balkans and financed by RYCO (Regional Youth Cooperation) our colleagues in Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and North Macedonia developed a unique corona adapted seminar for a total of 250 young volunteers. Thus, each country invited 2 X 25 young leaders at seminar. All seminars were run simultaneously and with the same program. And it was organised in a way so that the participants during the seminars met five times in the CCPA Virtual Clubhouse on Zoom in International break-out-rooms to share notions and perspectives and to conclude on the different workshops. Following the seminar, the youth went home to their local communities, mobilised and trained their peers to join them as coaches and organised an Open Fun Football School for 200 local children.
Of course, the corona prevented us from bringing children and volunteers together across cities in real-time. But the young people met with each other on Zoom and several of them are still in contact. Following the seminars, the youth leaders returned to their local community, where they mobilized and trained their peers to organise an open fun Football school and other sport-for-change programmes for children who had been subject to curfews and other draconian lockdowns during the spring.
The results of the seminars and the feedback from the young people are considered to be so favourable that CCPA and our international network have decided to make this seminar format a special seminar modality/signature in the future. Thus, in 2021 CCPA strive to organize as many seminars as possible based on the same principles providing the participant’s opportunities to meet and exchange experiences in Cross Cultures Virtual Club House in breakout rooms across borders regions and other physical or social barriers.
Youth civic engagement
Both in Tunisia, Jordan and in South Sudan, volunteer leaders and trainers formed on their own initiative, a so-called “corona brigade”, which, under the leadership of their national health authorities, provided corona prevention information to the public, distributed soap, rubbing alcohol and mouth pads to vulnerable households and helped local authorities with disinfecting public places such as bus/taxi stops, local markets, etc.
Given that CCPA’s youth leader training is about, among other things, to contribute to strengthening young people’s resilience through providing them with tools and opportunities for active participation in social and civic activities, CCPA values these self-organized initiatives, and we believe that this is a good example of how the Open Fun Football School program has helped to provide young people with a network and a platform to speak from, and where they have the opportunity to contribute positively to their community.