Uganda is one of the youngest countries in the world, with over 78 per cent of the population under the age of 30. But according to an article from local newspaper New Vision, a census reported that 58 per cent of the population between 14 and 64 years were unemployed in 2014. For those between 20 to 24 years old, 65 per cent did not have a job. Even worse, 90 per cent of 25-year-olds were reported as unemployed. In this situation, job opportunities seem like a distant reality, leaving young people with little hope for a future career and a stable life.
Uganda has a strong passion for football, especially among youth. Football for Good (FFG) is an non-profit organization trying to make the connection between a love for the sport, and a promising future for the youth of Uganda. Founded in 2013 by Adrian Bradbury, who has more than ten years of experience in the area, FFG is based in Gulu, a city in the Northern region of the country. Their mission is to identify and developing football talent.
In 2015, FFG launched the Youth Academy that provides quality football training and education to young players. With these skills combined, players have the chance at a successful career in professional football. Because of the countries lack of competition, quality local training, and club sophistication, Ugandan players typically have to leave Africa to find a football career in Europe or in the Middle East. Acording to FFG, many potential players are discovered too late. The organization aims to fill the gaps in local training, education and character building, which are crucial factors when developing professional athletes.
The Youth Academy rapidly became the country's leading full-time residential youth football academy and scholarship program. For Bradbury, football is a chance for youth to show their potential, and to go from good to great. "One thing that excites me about what we are doing here is that, I don't think the kids are just as good as elsewhere on the planet, I think the kids are better", he said. "For the kids that stay in the community, our hope is that we are also producing incredible leaders."
Bradbury believes that FFG is helping local communities break a cycle of poverty, and the struggle that comes with living on a day to day basis. " It's [questions] like, 'where is our next meal going to come from, where are our school fees going to come from?' Not just for next year but next term. There is so much pressure and focus put on what's going to happen tomorrow that is really difficult for the kids, and for the families, and for the community in general to think one year, two years, five years down the road. Even in a year, to see some of that change, and how quickly it can change, is amazing, and where these kids might be in two or three years from now is the most exciting part of what we are doing", he said.
Click here to learn more about FFG and how you help inspire youth.