Few things wield the transformative power to change lives quite like football. The game’s universal appeal makes it the perfect tool to educate and aid communities, a notion both the Liverpool FC Foundation and Right To Play passionately believe in.
This shared passion has blossomed into a strong partnership between club and charity, one which will have a profound impact on disadvantaged societies. Recent government reports detail that three of the most deprived places in the UK are located in the Anfield area, something the LFC Foundation has made its mission to tackle.
That strive for change resonates deeply with Right To Play, a global development organisation, that reach 2.3 million children each year helping them develop essential life skills through the power of sport (including football) and play in over 2,600 schools and 52 refugee camps in 15 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
“To partner with such a great international organisation like Right To Play is fantastic,” Susan Black, Liverpool FC Director of Communications and Trustee of the LFC Foundation, told COPA90. “It can add to the good work that the club is already doing in and around the city of Liverpool and Merseyside. One of our mottos is: ‘Local Heart, Global Pulse’, so Right To Play really fits within that for us.”
Liverpool FC have long been integrated within their local community, with the Foundation running an excellent initiative called Open Goals, a programme put on across the city’s parks where children and families of all abilities are welcome to come and participate in sport and play activities.
“Right To Play is really going to move that [the Open Goals programme] on significantly,” Black continued. “Using the power of play to combat deprivation and problems that children have in schools.”
It’s not just Liverpool benefitting from the partnership, either, with Lebanon-based Sarah El Jizi, one of Right To Play’s Field Facilitators, telling COPA90 that the charity can also learn from the LFC Foundation.
“The similarities between Right To Play and Liverpool FC Foundation is that we are both making a huge impact on children’s lives and working on developing life skills by integrating them into football sessions,” El Jizi explains.
“When I visited one of LFC Foundation’s Premier League Kicks sessions for girls, Wildcats & Kicks, I noticed that there were a lot of people, parents in particular, cheering the girls on. This was so inspiring to see. In Lebanon, the cultural norms are different. I wish we had the same level of support for girls playing football. Right To Play is making big inroads, and through this partnership with Liverpool FC Foundation, this is changing even faster,” she added.
After Sarah El Jizi visited LFC Foundation’s projects, she was invited to Anfield for the Club’s Champions League clash against RB Salzburg where the Liverpool FC players debuted Right To Play’s logo on the back of their shirts.
El Jizi stated: “When I was at the match, I received many messages from children in our programmes saying they had spotted the Right To Play logo on the LFC stars’ shirts. They were so excited and it made them feel even more connected to a bigger cause. Liverpool FC is one of the most popular clubs in the Middle East, and we are already seeing the power of the LFC badge. Our partnership with the LFC Foundation will inspire more children to get involved.”
The presence of Right To Play’s logo on LFC’s Champions League shirt is a powerful statement that Liverpool FC is more than just a sports team; it is a unique global family, and that together with Right To Play, they will make a difference to children’s lives around the world.
As a Field Facilitator, Sarah El Jizi leads one of Right To Play’s gender programmes in refugee camps in the north of Lebanon. “We play games with mixed teams to target gender issues. Girls Score is a Right To Play game which encourages teamwork. Girls are often the team captains and we set rules only girls can score the goals. This puts girls at the heart of the team and gives them confidence. It ensures boys pass the ball to the girls and see them as equal.”
The idea behind such rules is to encourage inclusion and showcase the importance of a woman’s role in a country where they are heavily marginalised. It’s a message that’s important in the professional game too, and something Liverpool Women’s Manager, Vicky Jepson, is keen to address.
When COPA90 asked Jepson about her side taking part in a joint pre-season tour with the men’s side last summer, she said: “I’d like to think that’s the way we’re going in the future. We’ve posted our picture this week with the men’s team: ‘Two Teams, One Club’, so we’ve got to live by that now.
“We’re at a point now where we’re starting to see more bums on seats at games – probably from the success of the Women’s World Cup – however, there’s still a long way to go for our club to really get behind the women’s team and push it to the next level to compete with the top teams in our league.”
It’s clear to see that the LFC Foundation and Right To Play share the same values and are committed to creating a partnership that will have a positive effect on women and girls around the world.
When Liverpool Women take to the pitch against Bristol City this Sunday, they’ll be acutely aware, perhaps more than ever, that they represent far more than just the club; they represent hope for girls the world over.