Kingston, Jamaica - Fifa's Technical Exchange Program, which embraces a strong grassroots element, had a successful rollout in Jamaica recently.
Six Caribbean Member Associations, which participated in the three-day course, engaged each other in an exchange of ideas with regards to grassroots football development and how this can be used to impact the growth of the region and beyond.
The three-day pilot activity also involved participants visiting the Iris Gelly Primary School in the Jamaican capital, Kingston, for an interactive session with students on the fundamentals of the game.
The kids were taken through drills which sought to expand their knowledge of passing, controlling and shooting, among other skills.
National Grassroots Football Coordinator for Jamaica Andre Virtue, in saluting the Fifa initiative, says he thinks it will go on to be a major game changer in regional football development.
"Obviously the initiative being undertaken by Fifa is one of exchange and collaboration. We don't know all the answers and to put us Member Associations together in one room and have an appreciation for what each country is going through.
"The learning that can take place by hearing from others and what they have to do on a day-to-day basis with their grassroots is critical. It provides a platform for sharing and collaboration which will help to strengthen the Caribbean region, so it is a great initiative on the part of Fifa," he shared.
Football, Virtue says, has the potential to continue to impact the social fabric of society, therefore, any grassroots program has the capacity to not only teach the game but to change lives.
"We are looking at changing our approach, not so much just the football approach, but using it as a social intervention... that way we think we are able to access and speak to some of the major issues in Jamaica - crime, violence, drug use, and abuse, so we are using football as a tool to be able to address some issues," he noted.
Chesley Brown, a coach and Physical Education of his native Antigua and Barbuda, said the Jamaica course was a breath of fresh air.
"I think the course was very refreshing. I think we learned a lot based on the different cultures and based on the different coaches. I think what mainly we can say is that everyone was willing to learn from each other and everyone was supportive of each other," he expressed.
Already, Brown is looking ahead to another edition of this Fifa initiative.
"I think it was a well put together course and it is something that I think we should continue...I will be using some of the things that I learned from the other coaches to implement it in our football in Antigua," he beamed.
Meanwhile, Fifa's Philip Zimmermann, who was on the ground in Jamaica overseeing the execution of the project, said: "I think it was a fantastic three days (as) the participants were very active very willing to give feedback." "I think it is in the nature in the Caribbean, that people like to explain what they are working on, like to share ideas, so that was really positive, something we can take back to Switzerland from these three days," he stated.
Zimmerman notes that the exercise, is a pilot project, will be reviewed in all aspects on his return to Zurich, and to see where it goes from there.
"What will happen next is we will report on this one, we will have an assessment, see what was well done, see what can be done better and how we want to move forward. This year we will have five pilots in total all over the world. The next project will be in Oceania in the Solomon Islands, where there we will be a focus, content-wise, on youth football," he said.
A Fifa team is expected to return to the Caribbean in a year's time to measure the progress of grassroots activities in the various territories.
"In this region in particular, once we have rolled out all the five pilot projects all over the world we will come back here and we will try to get the same group back together and see where the projects that have been presented here, where they have been taken within one year," noted Zimmerman.