Children attending a fun football festival were filled with joy at the end of the recent one-day event held in Do Son district of the northern city of Hai Phong as part of a project by the Football For All in Vietnam (FFAV), jointly initiated by presidents of the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) and the Norway Football Federation back in 1997.

The FFAV moved to Hue in 2004 and began its operations in Do Son in 2007. According to its website, the FFAV has managed to create 148 clubs with 1,659 teams and 15,956 players. It also hosts 300 tournaments a year and educates 4,537 people.

This year, hundreds of children from Hop Duc and Minh Duc communes in Do Son were able to participate in five hours of activities.

According to Hoang Trung Hieu, director of the FFAV's programme in Do Son district, after six years in the district, the number of clubs has rapidly swelled from two to nine big clubs and 21 small clubs.

With just balls and some simple objects, the FFAV's dedicated instructors created a wide range of games to help children learn skills as well as increase their knowledge.

Children can join in football matches or partake in drills combining thinking exercises with football skills. They can also dribble a ball to take pieces of paper with words and arrange these into a meaningful order; or head the ball into circles with different terms referring to good or bad aspects of society.

"This kind of event is invaluable and helps to educate children about football skills as well as life skills," said Vu Trong Loi, head of the National Sports Administration's Popular Sports Department.

"The event also serves as a catalyst to encourage children to participate in community activities through which they can acquire knowledge and practical skills. More events like this will be held in other provinces in the future."

The course is supplied at a very low cost and sometimes self-run by locals. Along with its own creative ideas, the FFAV can reach children in rural areas for minimal expenses.

"I saw a lot of different exercises here and how you use these to teach these boys and girls not only how to play football but how to be educated in a proper manner," said Wilfried Lemke, special adviser to the Secretary General on Sport for Development and Peace, after finishing a 30-minute football match with children.

Lemke said he was not disappointed to travel for three hours from Hanoi to attend the event, which he described as providing value, engagement, organisational skills, good-behaviour and a good environment.

"I am very pleased to see this project by NGO FFAV in Vietnam. I always focus on grassroots-level sports where children learn how to behave, that's part of education," Lemke said.

Pham Duc Dai, a secondary school student who has participated in the event two years in a row, said that participating in the event had helped him learn teamwork and social skills.

"We do not have many events of this kind which allow all children in the commune to meet, play and socialise. I want it to be held more often," Dai said.

Dai's wish is also what Lemke wants to bring to rural children across Vietnam. Lemke hopes other provinces and cities will replicate or learn from the model the FFAV is implementing in Hue city and Do Son.

"It is a question of content and support. This initiative has to be supported. With support from the government, the work will be much easier," he said.-VNA