Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua

by Soccer Without Borders
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Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
The 2022 Granada FC team.
The 2022 Granada FC team.

Ten years ago, the United Nations declared October 11 as the Day of the Girl, a day that recognizes girls’ rights and the unique challenges they face globally. At Soccer Without Borders (SWB), we believe that soccer has the power to break barriers, overcome challenges, and lift up the rights of girls around the world. Soccer, the global game, has become an important tool in the fight for gender equity and has a unique ability to influence perceptions and unlock pathways to equality.  

Investing in girls creates a ripple effect that carries through to her family, community, and her future. When designed intentionally and with emotional and physical safety as foundations, sport programs can be a catalyst for academic advancement, increased confidence, positive body image, and healthy decision-making.

Creating opportunities for girls and women in sport, where previously they did not exist, does not happen in days, months, or even years. It can take a generation. The story of the Granada Fútbol Club Femenino team, or Granada FC Women, is a perfect example of that generational change. 

Click here to read the inspirational story of Granada FC and learn all about the team’s connection to SWB Nicaragua and the incredible positive influence that they have had in the local community. 

A Month of Celebrations at SWB Nicaragua

For most people, International Day of the Girl celebrations are typically limited to a single day. At SWB Nicaragua, we have made an effort to take things one step further by bringing attention to the rights of girls’ throughout the month of October with a number of celebrations and activities. 

Festivities kicked off with the annual Copa De La Paz (Peace Cup) tournament. The 2022 edition of this cherished girls-only tournament saw 375 participants across 20 teams take the field! Spirits were high for another successful and impactful Copa de la Paz, a tradition that continues to lift up the community by providing opportunity, forging friendships, and creating countless smiles all around! We want to send a shoutout to Bristol Link in the UK for their continued support of this annual event.

In mid-October, SWB Nicaragua organized a week-long youth festival for girls from the local community. Festivities included a week of mini-workshops designed to educate participants on topics such as personal hygiene, understanding one’s rights as a girl, the importance of the International Day of the Girl, and stories of girls from other countries around the world. Finally, the week was capped off with a talent show featuring both coaches and youth participants! 

A glimpse into the 2022 Copa De La Paz tournament.
A glimpse into the 2022 Copa De La Paz tournament.
The talent show at SWB Nicaragua's Youth Festival.
The talent show at SWB Nicaragua's Youth Festival.
Players from Granada FC.
Players from Granada FC.

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SOMOS Coach Captains
SOMOS Coach Captains
As we reflect on 50 years of Title IX, the game-changing law that unlocked unprecedented investment and opportunities for girls' sport to grow in the United States, we know that there is still so much progress to be made. Since 2008, Soccer Without Borders (SWB) Nicaragua has been breaking barriers for girls to access soccer and educational opportunities that unlock their potential and challenge them to dream big. Based in Granada, Nicaragua, a community where, 14 years ago, girls' sport was nonexistent, Soccer Without Borders has transformed what it means to "play like a girl."

Today, over 350 girls actively participate in the program, not only challenging stereotypes on the field, but also in the classroom and in their careers. Research that has emerged since the passing of Title IX shows the undeniable benefits of sport for girls, positively affecting their academic outcomes, body image, self-confidence, and more. In the absence of a similar law in Nicaragua, SWB has worked to build these opportunities from the ground up, advocating for field time, educating parents about the value of sport, and supporting girls to take ownership of their bodies and futures together as a team.

We are thrilled to share that the lessons we have learned and the tools we have developed over the last 14 years in Nicaragua have been deployed across Latin America through a program called "SOMOS Equidad". Since November 2021, SWB Nicaragua Co-Director César Morales and Head Coach Francisca Alvarez, together wtih Managing Director Lindsey Whitford, have been leading a cohort of organizations serving girls and boys across 18 communities throughout Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Peru, and Chile through a series of workshops, trainings, and activities to make their programs more gender equitable and get girls in the game. SOMOS Equidad, which translates to "We are Equity", not only seeks to empower girls on the pitch but also aims to break down societal mechanisms that contribute to gender inequalities at large. The project aims to empower over 3,000 youth from across Latin America by elevating the leadership of 18 coach captains and over 80 women coaches across these communities.

Advancing gender equality through soccer is a global effort that includes the most visible players (ie. Megan Rapinoe), the most transformative clubs (ie. Angel City FC), and the most vocal champions (ie. the US Women's National Team) AND the organizations and coaches and players on the ground, in communities across the world. We are proud to support this grassroot effort to live the legacy of Title IX and bring it to girls everywhere.

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One group of scholarship recipients
One group of scholarship recipients

We are thrilled to announce that our Fútbol Sin Fronteras (FSF, Soccer Without Borders in Spanish) Education Program has awarded its annual scholarships for 2022, bringing our total to over 450 scholarships since the program began. The FSF Education program was established to facilitate positive secondary school outcomes for participants of Fútbol Sin Fronteras Granada through a system of financial, academic, and social-emotional support that empowers participants to overcome barriers to success. The FSF Education Program was launched in 2014 in memory of a student-athlete who exhibited humility, dedication to school and team, integrity, hard work, care for self and others. The program was established by his family to provide educational and financial support to girls in FSF who have dedicated themselves to learning, to their team, and to their futures.The education program works in tandem with soccer, leadership, and health activities to support girls to reach their full potential on the field and off.

Read the 2021 FSF Education Program report here>>

The 2022 school year in Nicaragua kicked off in February, awarding primary, secondary, and university scholarships to over 90 girls. With ongoing support from the Tom Pope Memorial Fund and Girls Rights Project, in addition to individual supporters, since its creation the program has now awarded over 475 scholarships. The combination of financial and academic resources supports girls to maintain an average academic advancement rate of 93% over the last five years in a context where nearly half of students in the general population do not advance to secondary school.

The FSF Education Program's scholarship provides not only matriculation and semester fees, but also school uniforms, school supplies, tutoring, access to computers and internet, and regular check-ins with school staff, parents, and students.

"Since my daughter joined Soccer Without Borders, she has experienced significant changes in her life to the point that the teacher at her school comments that she has become more sure of herself, social, and participatory in class. I thank Soccer Without Borders because it’s the only organization working with girls that creates a safe space where they can raise their voices."

-Taymara S., participant parent

Felicidades to all of the 2022 scholarship recipients!

The FSF Scholarship provides...

Helen Ramirez (center) Education Prog. Coordinator
Helen Ramirez (center) Education Prog. Coordinator

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2nd Division Team
2nd Division Team

Dear Friends,

As we close out 2021, we are sending gratitude to everyone who has supported our efforts to provide safe and positive spaces for the girls of Fútbol Sin Fronteras (FSF) amidst difficult times. The resilience of our participants, the hard work of our staff, and the investment of our community of supporters enabled us to keep innovating, responding, and expanding our work. This includes:

1. The FSF Education Program: Since its creation, the Fútbol Sin Fronteras (Soccer Without Borders) Education program in Nicaragua has awarded a total of 386 scholarships, including 359 secondary and primary school scholarships and 27 university scholarships. In 2021, the program also distributed 1382 units of food and basic needs support. Read more about this program and its 2021 impact in this report.

2. Reaching new communities: In partnership with Plan International and Women Win, FSF coaches continued to lead coaching clinics across Nicaragua, advancing gender equity on and off the field of play. Our strength in coaching was complemented by the entire FSF staff earning their CONCACAF D Licenses this year.  Read more here.

3. Expanded partnership with Capelli Sport: After a two year partnership in the USA, Capelli Sport has renewed and expanded its partnership with Soccer Without Borders to include SWB NIcaragua, becoming the official uniform and apparel provider of SWB globally. Read the announcement.

4. 2nd Division Team Launch: Though competitive soccer is not our focus, as the only soccer organization for girls in Granada, our participants, coaches, and graduates are some of the most talented players in the country. This Fall, we were invited by the Nicaraguan Football Federation to enter a women's team into the 2nd division representing the department of Granada. The team, made up nearly entirely of FSF coaches and alumnae, sits atop their division currently and has garnered a strong following in the city. Follow the team on Facebook.

5. Regional leadership: SWB Nicaragua staff will share their experience and expertise as facilitators of the new SOMOS Equidad Global Goal 5 Accelerator in Latin America. With participating organizations from Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Colombia, and Ecuador, the project not only seeks to empower girls on the pitch but also aims to break down societal mechanisms that contribute to gender inequalities at large. Read more here.

There is still time to support SWB Nicaragua in 2021 with a donation to our Play It Forward Campaign. Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to an outstanding 2022!
Coaching workshop
Coaching workshop
Congratulations primary school graduates
Congratulations primary school graduates
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Players compete in the new U12 Mixed League
Players compete in the new U12 Mixed League

The last few months have been exciting at Fútbol Sin Fronteras, with the launch of a new Mixed Youth League, the U17 team playing in Nicaragua's U17 National Women's Tournament, to CONCACAF licensing for all head coaches. 

Fútbol Sin Fronteras Launches New Mixed League
Fútbol Sin Fronteras Nicaragua has been serving girls in Granada for over 13 years, providing leagues, clinics, community events, and academic support. Now, with the launch of the new Liga de Menores Mixtas (Mixed Youth League) those services are being extended to even more youth in the Granada area. In particular, this new endeavor is being used to serve the youngest girls and boys in Nicaragua, for whom there are very few leagues and opportunities for game play.

The new league formally launched on June 12, 2021, and will host games every Saturday morning for both U8 and U12 participants. Through this, FSF is hoping to bring together the entire community in Granada and create a supportive space where youth can play soccer and other family and community members can watch. Perhaps most importantly, though, this is a space where young people can learn the importance of gender equity through sport alongside one another. A mixed league is a powerful way to create a basis of understanding gender equity for both boys and girls at a young age.

“It is important that from a young age kids realize that girls have the same skills, abilities, and capacity when it comes to soccer,” said FSF Head Coach Francisca Alvarez. “That girls possess the talent, strength, and wisdom to do any activity or achieve any goal that they set their minds to.”

The league is spearheaded by Francisca Alvarez, an alumna of FSF who saw that there was a gap in serving youth of this age in Granada. She’d received feedback that many younger kids wanted to participate in games, but there was no structure in place for them to do so. Together with her colleagues, and with support from the Boreiko family, the Liga de Menores Mixtas, or Mixed Youth League, was created.

Every September, FSF hosts the Peace Cup, one of the largest girls sporting events in the country. Historically, the youngest teams at the Peace Cup have had few other opportunities to play in games. This new Mixed League will serve as a complement to the Peace Cup, providing fun, healthy competition throughout the year.

“We want this project to continue throughout the year, and create a way to open and close the league every year,” Alvarez said. “We want children to be encouraged to be a part of this family.”
FSF Coaches Earn CONCACAF D Coaching Licenses
Soccer Without Borders is proud to share that all SWB Nicaragua/Fútbol Sin Fronteras (FSF) Head Coaches have earned their CONCACAF D Licenses and are now professionally certified and trained by the Nicaraguan Football Federation (FENIFUT).

“[Licensing] is important because it means we have support for the work we do in basic soccer coaching, especially since we want to hold a high level in girls' learning. Now coaches feel more confident in our knowledge,” said Veronica Balladares, FSF Nicaragua Co-Director.

The licensing process took place over the course of three months, wherein coaches participated in classes over Zoom, along with reviewing coaching materials and completing assignments to enhance their skills. Coaches learned about theoretical, socio-emotional, and physical aspects of coaching, and then practiced applying that new knowledge to practice and game plans.

“The main objective is to give women the opportunity to obtain their national license for free so that they are the ones who lead the women's teams here in Nicaragua,” said Dalila López Sánchez, Women’s Soccer Director at FENIFUT.

As women’s professional soccer expands in Nicaragua, CONCACAF licenses provide a great opportunity for coaches to become key parts of this evolving sphere, and even qualify Fútbol Sin Fronteras coaches to lead semi-professional teams.

“We have experienced rapid growth at the [women’s] national level and we are strengthening the growth pyramid,” Lopez Sánchez said.

The course trained coaches in scaffolding practices to meet girls where they are, and introduced coaches to evaluating the progression of activities to highlight individual and collective growth. These steps are allowing coaches to professionalize their teams and practices, which is exciting for coaches and participants alike.

“This is a way of seeing players with professional eyes, so that they can improve overall together and know how to improve either in a tactical or technical skill,” said FSF coach Lisbeth Calderon.

Obtaining CONCACAF licences is a milestone for Fútbol Sin Fronteras coaches, and for women’s soccer in Nicaragua as a whole. FSF coaches continue to be role models and industry leaders in creating opportunities for female leadership in the national soccer space.

U12 Mixed League awards
U12 Mixed League awards
All smiles under their masks!
All smiles under their masks!
FSF Coaches earn CONCACAF D Licenses
FSF Coaches earn CONCACAF D Licenses
FSF Coaches earn CONCACAF D Licenses
FSF Coaches earn CONCACAF D Licenses

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Organization Information

Soccer Without Borders

Location: Baltimore, MD - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @soccerwoborders
Project Leader:
Mary Connor
Boston, MA United States
$72,698 raised of $100,000 goal
 
2,426 donations
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