ACU’s Future in Youth (FIY) program in Timor-Leste has helped create one of the island nation’s first junior soccer leagues.
FIY is an innovative community program that engages children and youth in Baucau through sport and ACU staff and students have just returned from a three-week trip to train local coaches and prepare teams for the city’s inaugural league and the finals in September.
Beginning as a program in 2010 to address violent youth gangs on local streets, FIY has helped the formation of a local league featuring 1200 young people.
“Timor has a national team but there is no national league and no other junior league competitions,” said School of Exercise Science Lecturer Anthony Whitty, who has been involved with FIY for the past four years.
“This competition will play a major role in helping developing junior football, which can really help young people in the community.
“But before there is a league, there needs to be coaches and we are training local sports teachers and coaches how to become better equipped especially when dealing with such large numbers of children.”
Anthony said FIY is more than just a sports activity and it aims to improve the health, wellbeing and life-skills of young people.
“It’s not just about soccer. Life skills of fairness, equity and respect that can transfer off-field to the broader community are also promoted,” he said.
“It’s a great experience for ACU staff and students. We are really engaging with the local community and making a difference.
“And the Timor community are teaching ACU staff and students, too. I’ve learnt you don’t have to do it all alone, and that someone has to have my back.”