The Real Federación Andaluza de Football (RFAF), in coordination with the Nicaraguan National Police, is teaching courses to community leaders to promote the use of sports to prevent violence and gang activity. T
he initial phase of the program took place from May 12 to May 21, when Nicaraguan physical education instructors, football team coaches, and directors of neighborhood sports leagues – 53 in all – participated in the course. The participants learned how to use sports to promote the “social prevention of violence,” the Nicaraguan National Police said in a May 23 press release.
The course, which was held in Managua, was part of an agreement signed in July 2013 by the National Police which included the Directorate of Youth Affairs (DAJUV), the Andalusian Agency for International Cooperation and the Junta of Andalucía (AACID) of Spain, represented by the Center for Study, Research and Development of Football (CEDIFA).
The purpose of the course is to create a model of police engagement through sports to promote peaceful co-existence among young people.
The course was divided into two groups. Three Andalusian teachers from the RFAF’s Center for Training were responsible for teaching the first phase of the course, the RFAF reported.
Anti-violence in Nicaraguan neighborhoods
Authorities hope the anti-violence project will help improve public safety in Nicaraguan neighborhoods which are plagued by violence, Commissioner General Javier Maynard, assistant director general of the National Police, said during the ceremony marking the end of the initial course.
The course was taught in several locations, including Managua, Santiago City, and the Matagalpa district. The second phase of the program will take place in September, when similar clinics will be held in the Tipitapa district.
Many of those who participated in the courses live and work in about 20 neighborhoods with high rates of crime and gang activity. Preventing crime and encouraging children and young people to stay away from gangs in those neighborhoods are priorities for the National Police and the DAJUV.
The program is helping adults who work with children and young people in high-risk by training them that “they can get these kids off the streets, can teach them how to play football,” CEDIFA course instructor Jose Ramon Armas told the National Police on May 23.
The courses were originally scheduled to be held from April 21 to May 3. Officials rescheduled the program after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck the country on April 10.
The AACID has been collaborating with the National Police, promoting sports as a way to divert young people from crime and gangs since 2010.
Violence and young people
In Nicaragua, youths are most often the victims and perpetrators of violence, according to United Nations Regional Human Development Report of 2013. Gang activity, drug trafficking, and bar fights account for much of the violence committed by and against teenagers, young adults, and children.
Children and young people account for a large percentage of Nicaragua’s five million residents, according to the 2005 population census, by the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC). More than 60 percent of the population was younger than 25, according to the census.
Many Nicaraguan teenagers confront violence even when they are in school.
For example, a 2012 study of Nicaraguan high school students found that 47 percent of the teenagers reported having to defend themselves against physical attacks during the preceding three months, according to a video produced by the Central American Youths Against Violence.
Authorities estimate that there are fewer than 1,000 gang members in Nicaragua’s 153 municipalities, Trinchera reported on March 7.
Nicaraguan security forces have identified certain violent crimes as having “greater social impact.” Those crimes include homicide, sexual offenses, armed robberies and assaults, according to a study by the Washington, D.C.-based Wilson Center.
Thanks in part to the work of security forces, violence in Nicaragua is declining.
There were nine killings per 100,000 residents in 2013, compared to 11 killings per 100,000 residents in 2012, Radio Nicaragua reported in April. .
A ‘positive’ program: analyst
The idea of using sports to encourage children and young people to stay away from drugs, gangs, and violence is a good one, said Jesus Aranda Terrones, a researcher at the Collective for the Analysis of Security with Democracy (CASEDE) in Mexico City.
“Any sports activity involving youths is positive, including this program to use football to prevent violence, on the sports field and off of it,” the security analyst said.
In neighborhoods that have football teams, young people can train and practice and play games, which are positive activities that could help prevent violence. “Young people need options,” he said. “Organized sports is good, it teaches other values.”
The sports clinics are part of a proactive, preventive approach that Nicaraguan security forces are known for, Aranda Terrones said.