Harnessing the power of good in football: Why the Scottish Football Supporters Association wants to make a difference outside its own backyard

Harnessing the power of good in football: Why the Scottish Football Supporters Association wants to make a difference outside its own backyard

The Scottish Football Supporters Association (SFSA) is committed to harnessing the power of sport to build lasting partnerships that enact change - not just on the pitch, but on a holistic level, challenging issues like homelessness and building a communal response around health, wellbeing and community action. Read on to find out more about their work in this area. 

“The sports centre at Lilongwe only had a burnt sand park. We worked with the under-17s who feed into the national team. They warmed up by singing, dancing and doing chants – it was compelling to see! 

It was very warm but there was no water. There was a tap close by, and there is running water, but no one had a bottle to use. We would love to do a fundraiser to source 3,000 bottles, take them out and educate them on the importance of hydration.”

These were among the remarks of SFSA Chief Executive, Paul Goodwin, when he travelled to Malawi and reflected on why the Scottish Football Supporter’s Association (SFSA) has become enchanted with dedicating the passion and commitment of their membership to this cause. The SFSA boasts well over 70,000 Scottish football fans as members, but adopts a global outlook, aiming to make a difference outside of their own back yard. Paul saw a number of practical ways in which the Scottish-based association might be able to help.

Paul was accompanied on the trip by former SFA Coaching Performance Manager, Jimmy Bone, who had worked with a wide range of footballers as well as with the women’s Homeless World Cup team.

Bone is well versed and experienced in working on the African continent. In 2018, he travelled to Lesotho on similar work, and spent time coaching in South Africa and in Zambia, where he led Power Dynamos to the African Cup Winners Cup in 1991 – the first southern African team to win a continental trophy – before tragedy struck. Five of his former players had been killed in a plane crash that wiped out the Zambian national team. He is a patron of Africa On The Ball, a Scottish charity that, through sport, helps communities in Africa.

Preparatory work had been undertaken with organisations such as the Malawi-based Malawi Scotland Partnership and its Scottish counterpart, the Scotland Malawi Partnership, whose focus was on a football-based project to deliver life-changing moments. Inspired by how football has challenged issues, like homelessness, the SFSA project is holistic, building a communal response around health and wellbeing, social skills (including teamwork) and community action.

Play Soccer Malawi has secured a contract with the Homeless World Cup Foundation to implement Street Football interventions, and the SFSA plans to return to Malawi to further develop and build on this work from the visit.

Fully-funded by the SFSA, the original trip established the international network to fine-tune the plans and the infrastructure for volunteers and supporters, with full backing from within the game in Malawi.

Play Soccer Malawi Street Football leagues and volunteers, mirroring the work of the SFSA, will work together to recognise, track and train the new footballing future through partnerships with Scottish supporters and coaches. Utilising the knowledge structures, resources and collective commitment of the SFSA, the project will aim to support the emergence of a fledgling footballing infrastructure.

With plans and a committed corps of volunteers now in place, funding is being sought. Anyone wishing to find out more can visit the SFSA website. Or if you would like to discuss the project further, or offer your support, please contact SFSA Chief Executive, Paul Goodwin, by emailing paulgoodwin@scottishfsa.org.