Twelve clubs across the country, all taking part in a scheme with one common goal; educating children about the benefits of sport and nutritious food and the effect it has on their health.
The project was set up by The Scottish Football Partnership Trust and aims to teach the kids football skills as well as giving them nutritional advice and a healthy dinner, post-kick-about. It has travelled the land far and wide, with clubs from Dundee to Kilwinning taking part.
The latest club YFS visited was Pollok United Soccer Academy in Corkerhill. The scheme was coming to the end of its 12-week run, and on-hand to celebrate were the then Minister for Public Health and Sport Aileen Campbell, and Glasgow Pollok MSP Humza Yousaf.
“We’re really pleased to be here at Pollok United Soccer Academy to support the fantastic work that happens through the GoFitba scheme,” Campbell told YFS. “I’ve seen it in its former guise as FooTea and have seen how the kids respond - getting a chance to play the game, getting taught about health and nutrition and also getting the chance to have something nice and healthy to eat at the end.”
“It’s a fantastic, well rounded, holistic project and we’re really pleased to do what we can to lend support and to see so many young people enjoy the game.”
Yousaf, on his local patch, was also keen to sing the praises of the project, which was awarded a 50,000 Euro grant from The UEFA Foundation for Children and also received funding from The Kilpatrick Fraser Charitable Trust.
“This project is wonderful because it gets kids talking about nutrition in a way that doesn’t feel like school, doesn’t feel like they’re getting a lesson,” Yousaf said. “It feels like they’re having a good time. They then note that in their journal, take that home and then they’re influencing their parents about nutrition, nutritious eating and healthy habits.”
The success of the project has helped highlight the child obesity problem Scotland currently has, something which Yousaf touched on.
“We know that Scotland has a child obesity problem, we know that,” he said. “It’s got problems around health and healthy eating, so I’m delighted that this project is using football as that hook. This ticks so many of the Government’s agendas, so many of the Government’s boxes.
“We have serious health issues. We can’t sweep it under the carpet and say: ‘Aw we like an Irn-Bru and a pie, that’s just who we are’. That’s great, enjoy some of that stuff, but we have got some real health issues and we’ve got to start at this age. We’ve got to start with young kids, right from the off. They actually influence the parents, and it has inter-generational affects,” he added.
The scheme has been hugely popular, with Campbell and Yousaf both pointing to football being the catalyst for getting those involved. “Well we know that sport is an incredible hook to get young people involved and engaged with health promotion messages,” Campbell said.
“This is a fantastic example of that - using the hook of football, with local clubs rooted in the communities, helping children that need that wee bit of help and encouragement to eat more healthily and delivering those messages through football,” she continued. “It’s a fantastic example of sport being really innovative and doing what it can to increase the health of the nation.”
Yousaf agreed: “It’s the universal language. three billion people are watching the World Cup right now as we speak, so it is a universal language and it’s great. I’ve seen football being used to get men for example to talk about mental health, something which traditionally they don’t do.”