Why We Exist

The Problem

Every day 11 children are killed or maimed by landmines or weapons of past or current conflicts.

Explosive remnants of war (often termed ‘ERW’) – landmines and unexploded ordnance (often termed ‘UXO’) –cause injury or death indiscriminately for years after the conflicts have ended.

Most countries where casualties are reported are at peace and according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, 70-85% of reported casualties are civilians – many of them children.

Children are especially vulnerable to the dangers of ERW. Naturally curious, children are most likely to pick up strange or shiny objects thinking they are toys, or to try to salvage them for scrap metal.

Children living in poverty are even more prone, with weapons being undetected in rural areas.

A child injured by a landmine will face months of painful recovery and a struggle to afford replacing prosthetic limbs as they grow. Many never return to school and face discrimination and social exclusion.

Spirit of Soccer believes that no child should lose their life or limbs to landmines.

Our Journey

In 1996, British soccer coach Scott Lee returned to Bosnia, where he had spent years driving humanitarian aid convoys during the civil conflict, to deliver a coaching programme for UK soccer club Arsenal FC. While he was there, a group of children were playing soccer when one set off a landmine. Three of the children were killed, four were maimed. All were under ten years old.

This tragic incident made Scott Lee certain of two things: Firstly, wherever the location and whatever the risk, children will always want to play soccer. Secondly, this love for a simple game could be harnessed to teach important safety messages and help prevent such incidents in the future. Spirit of Soccer was born.

Since then, Spirit of Soccer has engaged over a quarter of a million young people across 10 countries affected by current or past conflict, educating them on the dangers of landmines and weapons of war, using soccer to engage and inspire.

Through hour-long sessions that blend football drills and MRE messages, creative educational materials, workshops for coaches and teachers and large soccer festivals that bring young people together across conflicted regions, Spirit of Soccer has delivered thousands of programmes over 18 years.

Currently working in southeast Asia, the Middle East and South America, Spirit of Soccer delivers sessions with local organisations and global funders alike and can expand and develop in regions depending on partners’ needs.