By Katherine Perry
The 2014 World Cup came to a close this weekend, having inspired feelings of anticipation, excitement, and pride among more than 3 billion global viewers. This was a youthful Cup, with an average player age of 26.8 years, and Ghana with the youngest team of all, with an average team player age of 24.9 years. Among the most ardent of local and international fans were undoubtedly global youth; FIFA estimates over 13,000,000 youth participated in the world’s top ten largest soccer federations alone by 2007.
With its impressive global reach, soccer is increasingly recognized as a unique and flexible tool for promoting development, and particularly, youth-specific development. Recognizing the importance of the sport for peace and development (SPD) approach, global cross-sectoral programs are incorporating skills-based curriculum in soccer programs to foster healthy life choices, life skills development, and sustainable lifelong success among youthful participants.