Since it’s inception the Spirit of Soccer project in Ukraine has been making remarkable strides in preventing the adoption of negative coping strategies among vulnerable groups affected by the Russia-Ukraine war. Harnessing the power of soccer, SOS is delivering explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) to rebuild community resilience in conflict-affected areas.

 In Ukraine, where soccer holds immense significance as a source of community cohesion and joy, the project is pivotal. Our aim is clear: to enhance civilian security and foster resilient communities by training soccer coaches in EORE and providing essential education to returning refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and other at-risk civilians.

 The core EORE messages — “Keep Away,” “Don’t Touch,” “Report,” and “Communicate” — are seamlessly integrated into engaging games and activities, empowering participants to navigate safely through hazardous environments.

In just the first year, SOS has made a tangible impact, focusing on mine-affected communities in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Chernivtsi, with plans for expansion into three more regions. Collaborating closely with the Association of Amateur Football of Ukraine (AAFU) and the Ukrainian Football Association, the project has gained substantial traction.

During regular visits to Ukraine Scott Lee, the visionary founder of Spirit of Soccer, witnesses firsthand the project’s progress, leading the training of the C licence coaching courses, attending sports festivals and seminars across all the regions. Subsequently, the program has expanded to include Chernihiv, Mykolaiv, and Dnipro regions, with the training of an additional 30 coaches to UEFA C licence level with the SOS EORE module.

But our impact extends beyond the soccer field. With the support of the Ukrainian national football team, the No Mines initiative has garnered global attention, advocating for safe playing environments for children worldwide.

Moreover, we recognize the critical role of referees in ensuring safety during soccer sessions. Through webinars attended by over 100 referees, we’ve emphasized the importance of creating safe environments and strengthening community relations.

The results speak volumes: over 590 EORE clinics conducted, reaching directly more than 15,000 children and adults across six regions. Through innovative methods such as distributing educational materials and soccer balls, and leveraging social media, we’ve successfully delivered EORE messages to those in need.

Our coaches, like Artem Hohol from Kyiv and Yuliana Maltseva from Kharkiv, embody the spirit of our project, driven by the belief that sports can indeed save lives.

 In the face of adversity, football shines as a beacon of hope, uniting communities and safeguarding futures. 

Together, we affirm: Football saves lives!