Viet Nam News
HCM CITY — On a hot Sunday morning, Đinh Nguyễn Tuấn Tú was so absorbed in perfecting his moves on a football field in HCM City’s Bình Thạnh District that he lost track of time.
Tú, who lives at Ánh Sáng Shelter in District 3, is one of a group of disadvantaged children learning how to play football with professional coaches as part of the Football for Community Outreach programme.
Tú said that after hearing about the programme, he didn’t hesitate to join. Since then, he has practiced often and can now control and pass the ball well on the field, which is made of artificial turf.
“I was bored watching TV a lot at the shelter. I prefer playing football on the field, where I learn new techniques. The coaches also teach us how to play in a friendly way,” Tú said.
The children participating in the programme are from welfare centres, shelters, poor families and other marginalised groups in the city.
Begun last year, it is organised by the city’s Social Welfare Centre for Children in co-operation with UNICEF, Manchester United Fund, and Norwegian Football Association.
Before football training, the children are taught how to avoid accidents that could cause injuries when playing.
Phạm Chí Thiên, 13, of Bình Thạnh District, whose parents sell lottery tickets to make a living, is also learning how to play.
“At home alone, there is nothing to do or to play with,” he said. “The coaches teach me the importance of co-operation with my peers, and we’re also told not to be too hungry for success.”
Trần Anh Tuấn, who works at the District 10 Shelter, said the children now had more friends and were more confident about integrating into society.
“Going out is good for their psycho-social and spiritual development,” he said, adding that the programme showed increased concern from city authorities about children’s well-being.
However, only shelters with enough financial sources have enough money to fund such programmes for their children.
Phạm Đình Nghinh, head of the city’s Social Welfare Centre for Children, said the programme, which offers life skills’ instruction, also enhanced the children’s dignity.
Country representative of UNICEF Việt Nam, Youssouf Abdel-Jelil, said that many poor children, particularly girls, and other marginalised groups, had no place to play.
When they are given a space to play, they can become more connected to family, community, city and society.
According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), children have a right to play. Việt Nam was the first country in Asia and the second in the world to ratify the CRC, on February 20, 1990.
“This right is little known, sometimes not even talked about. And it is even derided. Very often, we, as adults, tend to devalue play. We see it as frivolous, as time wasted, or not as important as academic study and housework,” Abdel-Jelil said.
As a signatory to the CRC, the state of Việt Nam agreed to respect and promote the rights of the child to play and provide appropriate and equal opportunities for recreational and leisure activity.
UNICEF Việt Nam has been working closely with HCM City to support the fulfillment of rights of all children.
The Football for Community Outreach programme is an “opportunity for the city to embrace all its children and provide an enabling environment to bring vulnerable children into the arms of their family, their community and their city”, according to Abdel-Jelil.
The city’s programme sets an example for other localities in Việt Nam and across the ASEAN region.
HCM City has 1.5 million children, including more than 55,000 who are considered disadvantaged. — VNS