Soccer without bordersSoccer is more than just a sport. It connects people from all around the world, crossing boundaries and eliminating limitations. Soccer Without Borders embodies exactly what soccer’s purpose is. Soccer Without Borders is dedicated to building a more inclusive world using the world’s universal language. Founded in 2006, Soccer Without Borders achieves its vision through youth-development programs serving underprivileged youth in more than 65 countries.

Soccer without Borders

The nonprofit organization believes that creating meaningful change is more important than the actual sport. They build their programs around the interpersonal element of the sport to meaningfully impact their youth’s physical, social and individual progression by using soccer as an agent of positive change in the development of skills necessary to overcome obstacles.

Impacting nearly 2,000 children on a yearly basis, Soccer Without Borders stretches across 10 countries. In the United States, the organization is stationed in Baltimore, Greely, Seattle and Oakland. Refugees seeking asylum in the United States comprise more than 70 percent of Soccer Without Borders participants. Internationally, Soccer Without Borders has program offices in Uganda and Nicaragua. In the past, Soccer Without Borders has worked in several countries in Latin America and Africa.

Soccer in Nicaragua

As one of the poorest countries in Latin America, more than two million Nicaraguans live in poverty with 20 percent of the population living in extreme poverty. Children are the first to suffer from poverty. Faced with health problems, violence and abuse, children lack the same opportunity. In particular, young girls are often victims of sexual exploitation, child marriage and human trafficking, increasing gender inequalities. Many children, especially girls, do not receive an education because of these disparities.

Founded in 2008, Soccer Without Borders hosts a program in Granada, Nicaragua. The organization works with girls ages 7 to 20 through the league with year-round programs, camps and clinics. In Nicaragua, the participants of Soccer Without Borders are 100 percent girls. The organization also provided education scholarships to 99 girls between 2013 and 2016.

Soccer in Uganda

Soccer Without Borders also founded a program based in Kampala, Uganda in 2008. There, the organization serves male and female youth refugees from Uganda, Rwanda, DR Congo, South Sudan, Somalia and Burundi. Ages range from ages 5-23, and they participate in tournaments, festivals and a variety of community events. Forty-one percent of the participants are female, and most of the coaches are refugees themselves.

A 2016 poverty reduction assessment shows Uganda has reduced poverty from a monetary perspective, but the nation still lags behind in non-monetary areas such as sanitation, health and education. Children often end up living in the streets, victims of child labor, child trafficking and child abuse. Both young girls and boys are forced into harsh situations. Boys become members of the armed forces while girls are forced to prostitute themselves. Young girls are often victims of violence and child marriage.

How Sports Can Help

Soccer and other sports can act as an agent of change. While they cannot eradicate poverty, sports help blur the divisive lives of inequality that poverty creates. Sports focus on building children’s developmental needs to then address the larger needs of the surrounding communities. Education through sports like soccer can provide children with skills such as decision making and taking responsibility that apply both on and off the field. The goal of sports is to help children develop the necessary skills to break the cycle of poverty.

For its efforts, Soccer Without Borders was named the winner of the 2016 Barry & Marie Lipman Family Prize by the Wharton School and the University of Pennsylvania. The organization was also awarded the 2017 Urban Soccer Symposium Impact Award by U.S. Soccer as well as the 2018 Sports Award Winner by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Most notably, Soccer Without Borders earned the FIFA Diversity Award in 2017.

Gwen Schemm
Photo: Cloudfront