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Bola P’ra Frente: Promoting Social Inclusion Through Street Soccer in Portugal

Beyond Sport X Under Armour Participant Spotlight

October 13, 2023 

With the expansion of our #SportForSocialChange retail donation campaign in partnership with Under Armour to Portugal, the Netherlands and Austria, we’re spotlighting the participating charities that are using sport to inspire and teach valuable lessons to youth. Today meet Bola P’ra Frente, which promotes social change, healthy lifestyles, human development and social inclusion in Lisbon. 

Almost a quarter of a million young people in Portugal are at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Data shows that the youngest workers receive the least pay in the country. Portugal has the second lowest salaries for young people in Europe – approximately 36% less than what other young people are earning in the other 27 member countries. 

Additionally, only 30% of youth are considered to be active in the job market, because 57% are employed on precarious, short-term contracts and 19% are unemployed altogether. 95% of young people live with their parents until their 30s, up from 84% in 2004. This is due to a combination of low salaries, a high cost of living and a lack of affordable housing and accommodation.

Bola P’ra Frente 

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Bola P’ra Frente is a project of Associação Nacional de Futebol de Rua (ANFR-Futrua), which works to improve skills for 11-25 year-olds living in the Padre Cruz neighborhood of Lisbon. The area is marked by school failure, youth unemployment and generational poverty and discrimination. Created in 2007, ANFR-Futrua is a Private Institution of Social Solidarity (IPSS) that uses street soccer as a creative strategy to promote healthy lifestyles and solve social problems. Its work is relationship-centered and holistically supports people's well-being and learning. Programming promotes social change, human development and social inclusion. 

Bola P’ra Frente derived from ANFR-Futrua's first pilot in 2009, supported by the Carnide Parish Council and the municipality of Lisbon. It consisted of using a ball, a whistle, vests and street soccer training equipment to engage children and young people of the Padre Cruz neighbourhood two to three afternoons a week. In six months, the project reached 100 participants. It expanded in 2010 with funding from the Escolhas Program. With a permanent centre, the project has reached more than 1000 participants since 2009, inclusive of girls-only and mixed soccer teams. A majority of its participants come from the PALOP (Países Africanos de Língua Oficial Portuguesa – Portuguese-speaking African countries) and the Roman community, both at risk of social exclusion and high school drop-out rates. 

According to the United Nations, people of African descent in Portugal experience systemic racism stemming from colonialism and slavery. Members of the Working Group visited Lisbon and other cities within Portugal to gain first-hand experience of the level of racial discrimination, Afrophobia, xenophobia and related intolerances affecting PALOP communities. 

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We spoke to the President and Founder of ANFR-Futrua, Vanda Ramalho, who explained the top challenges youth face and their solution. “With housing problems and economic deprivation, they have difficulty achieving academic success and many lack social skills. Discrimination and social inequality affect their lives. With street soccer, we try to positively re-socialise these children by giving them new opportunities to live inclusive lives stemming from their passion for soccer.” 

The organisation believes that street soccer provides the right setting to nurture feelings of belonging and team spirit, ultimately bringing people together in “sharing a field for life.” It’s an impactful methodology and tool for social inclusion explains Ramalho. “The experiences provided by the Bola P’ra Frente project is more than just a fun pastime, it helps young people expand their social boundaries and connect with others in the city, ultimately promoting cohesion.” 

There are three focus areas of the project: Liga Educa (education), Ser (being) and Craques (soccer stars). Liga Educa integrates education and sports activities such as street soccer. The pillar promotes informal learning, digital skills and personal development. Ser promotes healthy lifestyle habits, community participation and breaking down barriers such as gender and economic status through summer camps and cultural activities. Participants are challenged through Craques, which is a monitoring and evaluation component of the project. It intends to see an improvement in soccer skills and participation.

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With these elements, the project is seen as a holistic solution to the challenges faced by young people in the city. It is often a haven or safe space for many youth to be able to not only exercise their passion for soccer but also to learn valuable life and social skills along the way. “Bola P'ra Frente is a second home, a family. The magic of street soccer helped me grow as a person,” shares 15-year-old project participant, Mafalda

With funds raised from the Beyond Sport X Under Armour campaign and seed funding provided by the retailer, ANFR-Futrua will expand the Bola P’ra Frente project to positively impact more young people across Lisbon. It will use the funds to purchase more street soccer equipment and computers to support education and learning. “For ANFR-Futrua, becoming a beneficiary of a grant from the Beyond Sport x Under Armor partnership is a great opportunity for children and young people who participate in the Bola P'ra Frente project to improve their experience.” 

Learn more about the incredible organisations we're working to support in the UK and Europe HERE. If you live in Portugal, please consider visiting your local Under Armour store to support #SportforSocialChange! 


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