The Process of "Sports Practice" in Development Cooperation: The Development of Sports by International Cooperation Actors

published: 2016-09-26Japanese

I am studying international cooperation activities and the issues they address with a focus on NGO activities in Lagos State in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, domestic and foreign NGOs have taken on the role of supplementing the redistributive function of the state in the fields of education and healthcare.

enlearge image (to back to press x)Role-play using soccer balls and marker cones (Those playing “HIV” are lined up at the light blue cones, those playing “Human” at the red cones).

Nigeria's Lagos State, the target of my research, lies on the Gulf of Guinea near the equator, and with its yearly rainy and dry seasons the tropical infectious disease Malaria is a regularly occurring illness. The state government has made prevention of infectious disease a goal for the improvement of public health, but it cannot be said to be providing adequate infectious disease prevention through its elementary and middle school education and public education policies, and NGOs are pursuing projects in cooperation with the state government. One of these NGOs conducting activities in Lagos State is Youth Education and Development Initiative (YEDI). YEDI is centered around group activities conducted by America-based NGO “Grassroots Soccer” that aim to prevent infectious diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS.

In response to requests from elementary and middle schools, YEDI dispatches three to ten coaches (facilitators) and a few master coaches who evaluate them. Each coach leads a group of around ten children through a program running a total of thirteen sessions, and gives them graduation certificates once the program has been completed.

enlearge image (to back to press x)The “Human” character cannot escape and is caught by the “HIV” character.

The program content is as follows. A square is made with marker cones, and children playing the “Human” role dribble inside it. Pursuers playing the “HIV” role then appear, and role-playing in which “Human beings” try to get away from “HIV” is conducted along with soccer training. In another exercise “mosquito nets” that protect people from harmful insects are stretched out by their corners, the ball becomes a “mosquito,” and there is a role-play of blocking mosquito attacks by bouncing the ball back off the mosquito net. In the midst of these infectious disease prevention group learning activities, both the children and coaches share a stance of mutual cooperation with other participants.

One problem that arises in international cooperation through sport is how to balance the fun of sport and the educational results of the program in question. In YEDI's initiative, for example, the following situation arose. The coaches promoted a “modified for the program” version of soccer in accordance with their NGO manual. Many of the participants, however, thought it wasn't fun because it wasn't the soccer “we always play,” and some of the coaches said they felt it was difficult to get the children to actively participate. As a result of different understandings of soccer, balancing the educational effectiveness of international cooperation became an issue that had to be addressed here in implementing the NGO's activities.

enlearge image (to back to press x)Acting out malaria prevention using a ball and a mosquito net.

As measures to solve this problem, by adding singing and choreography to the warm up exercises included in the program and encouraging everyone to snap their fingers and praise a participant who performed a good action, the YEDI coaches tried to incorporate a camaraderie into the program capable of filling in some of the gaps in understanding between the coaches and the children. Through these initiatives, a “sports practice” in international cooperation capable of fine-tuning the balance between fun and educational results has taken shape.

To think more comprehensively about international cooperation through sports, it is necessary to analyze the history of sports in the region in question and carefully examine sports-related practices. Going forward, I would like to undertake an anthropological examination of how people living in Nigeria perceive and interact with soccer. Sports have a history of facilitating state violence, and a history of both serving as symbols of authority and contributing to the raising of anti-authority group consciousness. Looking at the different ends for which soccer has been used in Nigeria, I would like to clarify the adoption of soccer in this country, including the influence on politics and policy possessed by professional soccer players active inside and outside the country and the consumer activities of fans of teams and players.

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This research achievement was financially supported by the research fund, “international research activities”, a support system for enhancing research quality of young researchers of the Research Center for Ars Vivendi in academic year 2015.

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