• AFC Hosts CAC At Dream Asia Awards

    December 11th, 2017.  Chief Executive Strategist Brian Suskiewicz recently attended the AFC Dream Asia Awards in Bangkok, Thailand.  As a key official Social Responsibility partner of the Asian Football Confederation, CAC delivers various projects throughout Asia including creating Sustainable Community Legacies at the AFC Village in Tacloban, Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan and in Sindhupalchok, Nepal after the recent Earthquake.

    Throughout the two-day event Suskiewicz spoke with FIFA President Gianni Infantino as well other AFC Social Responsibility partners the UNHCR, the International Federation of the Red Cross, and the United Way, about ways to continue to create social change through football.

    During the conference a special meeting of the AFC Social Responsibility committee and partners was convened to Design, Develop, and Implement further social responsibility projects throughout the 47 Member Associations of the AFC.  Joining the meeting was AFC Executive Committee member Ahmed Eid S. Al Harbi (Saudi Arabia), Park Ji-sung (former Korean Republic international and Manchester United legend), and Head of CSR for the AFC, Dr. Anna Ranganathan.

    Awards were given at a star-studded gala on the final night for the best players, coaches, teams, and social responsibility projects throughout Asia for 2017.  A new state-of-the-art mini-pitch was also opened as a Legacy project donated by the AFC.  On hand were the AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, FA Thailand President Police General Somyot Poompanmoung, President of Bangkok Thonburi University Dr Bangon Benjathikul, Dwight Yorke (FIFA Legend), and Park Ji-sung. Altogether 160 refugee and stateless children from Thailand’s border areas, identified and selected by AFC’s Social Responsibility partner UNHCR, were invited to the launch and participated in the activities.

    Coaches Across Continents is a proud partner of the Asian Football Confederation and will continue to create Community Legacies throughout the continent.

    Brian Suskiewicz. (Coaches Across Continents); Dr. Susheela Balasundaram (UNHCR); AFC EXCO member Ahmed Eid S. Al Harbi, Park Ji-sung, P. Ming Wong (United Way), Gwendolyn Pang (IFRC), Shin Chul-soon (Cerebral Palsy Football Korea).

  • Putting Words Into Action

    November 21st. CAC Global Citizen Joseph Lanzillo described his experiences working with IDYDC in Iringa, Tanzania.

    The city of Iringa is fortunate enough to have a FIFA-sponsored turf field nestled into one of the rocky ridges surrounding the town, where young men from the area gather for a 6 v 6 match every morning. They play without keepers so instead you must hit either goalpost to score, and they rotate 3-4 teams if there enough players. The games are fast paced and can feature some incredibly precise finishing ability. Those not playing lounge on the side wall overlooking the neighborhood on the slope below, where the equatorial sun glimmers off the tin roofs of the buildings. As the games run, other young men filter through to watch and chat with their friends on the sideline, before all pack up to go their separate ways for the day. It is an enviable morning routine; a smooth blend of exercise, community, and scenic beauty – pleasures of life that anyone could appreciate having combined on a daily basis.

    The same sense of community was shared through our daily sessions at this field with local volunteers for the Iringa Development of Youth, Disabled, and Children Care (IDYDC). All of the participants in our program were passionate about improving their programs for children, for which they volunteered as coaches, teachers and mentors for young people in the area. At midmorning every day, the group took a long break, where a few women of IDYDC brought tea and a few breakfast treats for everyone to enjoy. For about a half hour each morning, the participants, men and women who ranged in age from 19 to 59, socialized together over the meal. On the field, the group was congenial and enthusiastic. Throughout the week, it was clear that not only were they already familiar with each other through their work with IDYDC and enjoyed working together, they also shared the same passion for improving their own coaching skills and their local programs. It was inspiring to see their shared commitment to the larger work of their organization, and even more so to observe their openness to new ideas and willingness to engage with the issues in Iringa.

    On Monday, as participants made teams for one of the games, there was audible clamor for gender equality on the teams. I hadn’t expected such a deliberate effort or even awareness of the gender inequality that plagues most of the world, and was impressed to see that this was on their radar. Their effort indicated some previous exposure to and willingness to accept such progressive ideas, which seemed to be an encouraging sign for the week’s program. But did the reality of the society in their community reflect the ideas they seemed to support during the program? Who played in the local pick-up games every morning? Men. Why are there no women playing football in the morning? Because they were working in the fields instead. While 20-30 men and boys gathered to play on a daily basis – many of them just loitering near the field – the adjacent land had several women, some of whom appeared to be beyond child-rearing years, toiling away watering and picking crops. Of course, while this one anecdotal scenario does not unequivocally prove inequality between men and women, it is a dramatic example of the disparity that our programs work to bring to the attention of the participants.

    Indeed, just a short time after the participants so nobly divided into equal teams of men and women, the coaches noticed that men were often taking control of the game and in some instances preventing women from participating in it as fully. During the partner scrimmage game (a normal football game where each “player” on the team is actually a pair of people holding hands), Nick made an example out of one couple (conscientiously arranged to be male and female) where the man denied the woman an opportunity to take a free kick. When he pointed out that their on-field actions did not reflect the ideals of gender equality they had been so vociferous about when making teams, there was a collective moment of consideration, especially among the men. The women too, seemed slightly surprised to have that incongruity called out, but quickly afterward seemed empowered to have some backing to their very real concerns about inequality. Through a series of conversations that week, we discovered some of the intricacies of the gender imbalance in Iringa, and discovered the participants’ collective willingness to address these issues. But at various other moments throughout the week, coaches pointed out instances of participant’s actions and choices that, without noticing it themselves, undermined their stated ideals of gender equality. For several of the men, some of these comments seemed to prompt them to consider how actions and attitudes in their everyday lives were unwittingly promoting very traditional gender roles, and it was exciting to watch them think through how they could make different choices every day that would contribute to a better environment for women in their community. Though the path to complete gender parity in Iringa is long and difficult, the participants’ collective willingness to acknowledge the issue and their efforts to better understand the changes they could make to address it are encouraging signs that seem to show that IDYDC volunteers will be able to have an even stronger impact on their community. I believe that someday, there will be girls playing with the men in the early morning pick-up games in Iringa, and our CAC program there this past week will have been one of many conversations and steps along the way that gradually brought about change in the community.

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  • How Can An Empty Beer Glass Stimulate Self-Directed Learning?

    CAC’s Markus Bensch blogs from Tarrafal, Cape Verde on our partnership with Delta Cultura.

    October 28th 2015. Can you imagine how an empty beer glass, a penny and a beer-mat can be related to Self-Directed Learning? Hopefully you will understand after reading this blog.

    It is Saturday night and Frederick and I are sitting in “Burg Pappenheim”, a Bavarian restaurant in Munich. We just returned from our program in Cape Verde and now we are celebrating Bayern Munich’s 4-0 victory against Cologne in the German Bundesliga that we witnessed in the Allianz Arena earlier that day. After many months I was craving some Bavarian food and Frederick, who is a local, took me out to this place. We finished our delicious meal and I am sipping my “winning beer”. As I look across at the table next to us I witness a boy offering a challenge to his friend: on top of an empty beer glass he places a beer-mat and a small coin. He asks the girl if she can get the coin into the glass without touching it. The girl simply takes the beer-mat, tilts it slightly sideways and the coin slides into the glass. She looks happy. The boy is astonished, but after a second he realizes what happened and says: “No, no, no! I didn’t mean like that. That is too easy. You should also not touch the beer-mat!” In the following minutes the two children try to find ways to get the coin into the empty beer glass without touching the coin nor the beer-mat. The whole situation makes me smile. To see these two kids makes me even happier than Bayern’s victory against Cologne.

    Change of location and scenery: just a few days before we are on Delta Cultura’s Football for Hope Center pitch and the coaches are separated into two groups. They are given tasks and they compete with each other to finish them as quickly as possible. First I asked them to keep the ball in the air and everybody has to touch the ball at least once. Both groups start to juggle and pass the ball to each other with their feet. It is very difficult for them to complete the task. Finally they succeed. When I asked them why they didn’t use their hands they said: “We thought we have to use our feet.”

    Is there any connection between these two incidences? I could say that the girl in the restaurant has simply better listening skills than the coaches from the program in Cape Verde. But I think it goes deeper and the situation in the restaurant made me again realize why I love the work I do and why it is important. I want to encourage people to question and challenge tradition, religion and culture. I don’t want them to just assume what might be expected from them. The boy and the girl in the restaurant were facing a problem and then tried to find solutions to it. The adults that were around them didn’t tell them how they have to do it or what the best solution is. I think this is the biggest difference between these two kids and the people in Cape Verde and many other places in the world. I want to encourage those people who live in places with a culture of authoritarian control to find creative solutions to their problems instead of repeatedly trying to make solutions work that they have been told to use. My work is challenging, but often also very rewarding. The coaches in Cape Verde are on the right track as they have been very creative while developing their own games during the partnership. Their games address important social issues in their community such as robbery, social inclusion and female empowerment. As it was the third year of our Hat-Trick Initiative with Delta Cultura the coaches are now able to create and develop their own curriculum which will positively impact the next generation of children.

    Who knows in 20 years I might go back to Tarrafal and while I am sitting in a bar and sipping my beer two children might be sitting at the table next to me and will use an empty beer glass, a coin and a beer-mat to develop their own little challenge.

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  • Can I get a Whoop?

    July 24th 2015. CAC staff member Nora Dooley writes about our extra time with training4changeS in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

    A beautifully honest blog by my good friend and fellow Columbia ’12 alum, Mike Mazzullo, detailed our first week in Cape Town. It is an absolute treat to have someone from my pre-CAC life out here to be part of it all. And it is made even more special when ‘it all’ comes in the form of magic.

    Working with training4changeS (t4c) is significant for various reasons. The main one being the first impression they made when I was there September 2014 to kick off our partnership. I’m fairly certain I ‘whooped’ when I learned I would lead the team retuning for year 2. The wonders of Cape Town and Stellenbosch naturally played a role in said whoop, but I have been lucky (understatement) to visit so many beautiful places in the past few years. The essence of this legendary whoop is credit to t4c – who they are and what they do.

    The main portion of the training was excellent – launched by a big W for the women of the United States (WHOOP!), and capped off by some impressive coach-backs by the participants. But that was not the end of ‘it all’ for CAC and t4c on-field in 2015. This training went into OT the following week, and I can tell you now that this goofy blog will not do justice to what we witnessed – no words could.

    With our extra time with training4changeS we were presented with an incredible opportunity. And we spent two days building up to the magic I allude to. We started off easy and discussed what we love to do outside of work and football/futsal, we learned more about each other, and we dug deeper into the issues the coaches and staff see in their communities. The coaches then chose one of these issues to unpack: corruption. What do we think of when we hear corruption? What are some of the causes, effects, and potential solutions? Now, let’s use this game we love to solve the problem – we small people may not be able to cure FIFA but maybe these coaches can be part of the solution for their community and the next generation of ballers. The coaches set off into three groups and each created a new game to teach about corruption. Once they were ready we went outside and group-by-group, they brought their games to life with young players.

    The result? Magic. Corruption = Solved.

    I left that session feeling like I could whoop for days. That^^^ is why we do what we do. Our partners are brilliant, the coaches we train are on another level of commitment, and they make our job ridiculously enjoyable and rewarding. To be even a miniscule part of what the t4c coaches and staff are doing in Stellenbosch keeps me going on this mad adventure I’m on with CAC.

    Surely, you can set aside your pride, and give t4c your most obnoxiously heartfelt….. whoop !!!!

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  • A Lifetime of Learning

    CAC’s Kelly Conheeney talks about learning a little from everyone after week 2 in Mokopane, South Africa with the Red Cross Society.

    July 14th 2015. I try to learn as much about people as I can when I’m moving around the world with CAC. I think that’s part of being a good coach, getting to know your players- even if it’s only for one or two weeks. Because you can learn something from everybody you meet. I like to hear what people are passionate about, to pick their brain and hear their stories. I didn’t get to talk much to Sean, but I was impressed mostly because he was the only 13 year old in a pool of over 25 adult coaches who attended the two weeks of training. His actions spoke more than the words he said.

    This past week in Mokopane, South Africa was our second week of working with the same intelligent hard working group of participants as we worked with the previous week. The Football For Hope center made playing 4v4 every morning a nice treat, as we waited for all the participants to show up.

    The thing that really stuck with me this week that reminded me once again why I love CAC was how eager the coaches were to coach one another at the last session of the training. We gave their innovative brains time to collide with one another in pairs and adapt one of the games they learned from this years CAC course as well as last years course. The outcome was impressive. It was coaching filled with passion, personality and energy! It’s always fun to watch the coaches come alive in their transformation from player to coach.

    With the work we do, we focus on putting the tools and the power in the hands of the community and take a step back as they use what we have given them to work on making their community a better place.

    We believe in people and we believe in change for the better.

    We are not quite finished in Mokopane, we have another year to go, but this group has shown so much progress over the past 2 weeks. They arrived willing to work and play everyday, soaking in the knowledge and taking the social messages home with them at the end of the day. It was apparent by the end of the second week that the participants were ready to put their 60 hours of practice to the test.

    Next year we will work on creating entirely new games with them. This year they were challenged off the field both weeks, in groups, individually and as a team;  talking about issues of the world that were important to them, and local issues in their community that they want to see change.

    At the end of the week Sean asked if it were possible for him to take a One World Futbol back with him to his community. He just started a boys team and would like another ball so he can teach his peers CAC games. We gladly sent him home with one.

    It will take the older leaders like the ones we worked with this week to continue to challenge and encourage each other to teach the children of the community CAC games.

    And it will take young committed leaders like Sean to teach his peers the skills he has learned on the football field to build their character in life and create a better Mokopane future.

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