Location and general information
Football is popular, accessible, and profound in its ability to connect people and places. Seen as an incredibly powerful platform, through which to facilitate the promotion of social change, football and sport for development programmes are recognised as a low-cost, high impact tool to supporting the achievement of global development priorities.
The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) focuses on sport for development as part of its overall strategy to build stronger, healthier communities and address social issues affecting young people in the Pacific region.
The purpose of the Just Play programme is to reduce vulnerabilities to endemic social issues, such as the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCD), gender inequality and social exclusion, by integrating social messages into sessions – for example, the importance of eating fruit and vegetables. The programme promotes the importance of regular physical activity and its impact on issues such as nutrition, disability and social inclusion, to enable positive social behaviour change.
Home to half a million children spread over 17.2 million square kilometres of ocean, children in the Pacific region face several significant challenges as they navigate their way through daily life.
Health and wellness – non-communicable diseases the leading cause of death
With obesity and diabetes on the rise, research indicates that only 18% of children in Fiji, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu attend regular physical education classes, with fewer than 20% of children in these countries playing for 60 minutes or more a day. More than 50% of children choose soft drinks instead of water, which contributes to weight gain. More than 25% of children present as overweight and obese as early as 13 years of age.
Gender equality and social inclusion – prevalence of discrimination and inequality
Children with disabilities experience discrimination, exclusion and social barriers, and girls are marginalised and face inequalities in education, decision-making processes and access to health services.
Child safeguarding – high levels of bullying and violence
Evidence shows that poverty, hunger and lack of access to services remain major challenges for children in the target countries. One in four children live below the poverty line and children are exposed to high levels of violence at home and at school. More than 45% of children aged 13–15 report being bullied; 27% have attempted suicide in the past 12 months; 12% report having no close friends; and 80% of children experience some form of direct violence or abuse.
Protection risk factors are high. More than 40% of children reportedly miss school and 35% of children report that their parents or guardians do not know what their offspring are doing or where they are during their free time.
With low levels of literacy and up to 30% of young people aged 15–24 years presenting as illiterate, employment opportunities are limited, resulting in high unemployment rates among young people in the region.
Emergency preparedness and response – high risk of natural disasters
Between 2009 and 2017, the Pacific region was affected by 44 natural disasters. Vanuatu and Fiji were hit by category 5 tropical cyclones in 2015 and 2016 that affected nearly one million people, including 450,000 children. Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu accounted for 30 of 44 natural disasters that struck the region, with children constituting on average between one third and one half of the people most severely affected.
With a focus on the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, the OFC’s sport for development activities were developed to help support and reinforce national capacities to deliver results for children and children’s rights throughout the Pacific region.
Through the provision of structured sport for development interventions, the OFC seeks to reduce risk factors associated with NCDs, child protection, gender and social inequality. These efforts were extended to humanitarian response with the success of the Just Play emergency programme.
Working with key delivery partners such as the Australian government, Football Federation Australia, the New Zealand government, UEFA Foundation for Children and UNICEF Pacific, the OFC seeks to build confidence in children and teenagers and provide access to quality sports activities, educational platforms, advocacy campaigns and public dialogue through active participation.
With a ball, a coach and a safe space to play, the Just Play programme delivers football in combination with life skills messages aimed to build stronger, healthier individuals, communities and nations by addressing social issues affecting children and teenagers in the Pacific and beyond.
Through the OFC’s Just Play programme children and adolescents are empowered to advocate for change, supporting the development of positive behaviour and the enhancement of resilience among their peers and community.
Recognising that football for development programmes are designed to champion a learning through sport approach, the Just Play programme provides an ideal platform through which to enhance positive behaviour, develop fundamental life skills and promote action-oriented learning.
Whether it is a training session, fun activity, kick-about or competition, football provides a setting within which children and teenagers are forced to make hundreds of important decisions—where the consequences matter. With no two football drills, kick-abouts or matches ever the same, it provides children and young people with a variety of scenarios and contexts to learn from.
Through engagement in the OFC’s four social responsibility programming streams: Just Play 6-12 year programme, Just Play 13-18 year programme, Just Play grassroots and the Just Play emergency programme, the programme helps to:
- Reach children and teenagers who are most at risk, providing access to information on health and wellness; gender equality; social inclusion; child protection and safeguarding; clean water, sanitation and hygiene; emergency preparedness; and life skills;
- Provide knowledge and skills, promoting positive behaviours and informed decision-making among children and teenagers;
- Mobilise children and teenagers through advocacy campaigns at local, national and regional levels alongside major sporting events;
- Leverage partner support to ensure a synergistic and coherent response among sports for development projects and programmes;
- Create role models to promote and encourage positive behaviours and active, responsible civic engagement of children and teenagers;
- Engage children and teenagers in internalising the link between football and healthy lifestyle choices;
- Empower and engage girls, increasing opportunities and access to football, in addition to providing concrete links to management and leadership pathways within football;
- Work with inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations that have direct and frequent contact with children, teenagers and communities, and who can create a supportive and structured environment for running football for development programmes;
- Develop new partnerships to expand and enhance the delivery of football for development programmes – creating a blueprint to share and promote best practices.
Just Play in numbers
Just Play is supporting the upskilling of teachers and community volunteers to enable them to deliver programme activities that facilitate capacity building, ownership and accountability in social change through a community based, child-centred approach.
- 317,004: The number of children and teenagers who have taken part in the Just Play programme across the Pacific region since 2009
- 7,198: The number of teachers and community volunteers trained to deliver of the Just Play programme in the Pacific region since 2009
- 17,390: Number of children and teenagers who have taken part in Just Play emergency programme festivals in the wake of a natural disaster in the Pacific region
The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) recognises that children who have a positive experience of sport early on are more likely to practise sport and physical activity throughout their lives.
The OFC also acknowledges that sport helps children and teenagers to develop life skills applicable both on and off the field of play.
Health and wellness
Before participating in Just Play: 52% of children chose to drink water instead of soda
After participating in Just Play programme: 82%
Before participating in Just Play 53% of boys reported that they enjoyed playing football with girls
After participating in Just Play programme : 72%
Before participating in Just Play : 65% of children reported that they acknowledged and celebrated differenced
After participating in Just Play programme : 85%
Before participating in Just Play : 24% of children reported that they felt safe in the wake of a natural disaster
After participating in Just Play programme : 59%
Just Play has a positive impact on children and teenagers through a sport-based curriculum that enables them to develop the life skills necessary to make consistent, long-term healthy lifestyle choices that promote health and wellness, gender equality, social inclusion and child protection, including in post- emergency contexts.
65% of teenagers report they now know how to set goals; 54% know how to make the goals SMART
98% of teenage boys in the Just Play programme see their coach as a positive role model
44% of coaches in the Just Play 13–18 year programme are women
71% of teenagers report they have someone they can talk to when they have a problem or need help
93% of teenagers report they now know what to do in a situation where they or someone they know is being bulled