During the FIFPRO general assembly on 21-24 November in South Africa, FIFPRO will present the 2023 Union Impact Award to the member union that has launched the best initiative to improve the wellbeing of professional footballers in their country.
Six unions were shortlisted and recently a special committee selected three finalists. During the general assembly, FIFPRO members will vote on which of the three finalists will win the award.
One of the six shortlisted unions is Czechia’s CAFH, whose Shoes4Life project is helping distribute boots to underprivileged communities.
In 2016, members of the executive committee of the Czech Association of Football Players (CAFH) created a foundation called Shoes4Life.
Players often had various football boots that they no longer wore, yet they were still good enough to be used. At the same time, many people in underprivileged communities lack adequate footwear to play football. Shoes4Life collects used boots and gives them a second life by distributing them to those who need them most.
The project aims to give underprivileged people the tools – in this case boots – to develop the passion and love they have for the beautiful game.
Jakub Porsch, secretary general of the player union, said: “We are aware of the incredible talent that those in poor countries have and they should not be forgotten about. Their passion for football, which is often the only thing they have, needs to be developed. The potential that lesser-privileged people have is often overlooked simply because of the conditions in which they grow up in.”
According to the CAFH, Shoes4Life helps bring players together, which can be beneficial for both players and the union.
Porsch said: “Supporting the foundation’s project is often a unifying element for players and they get involved when we visit the clubs. Leading Czech footballers, such as Tomas Soucek at West Ham United, have also joined the project. Tomas even donated a pair of his signed boots.”
Porsch believes the way in which the project has united players can only serve as a positive for the union.
He said: “On the pitch the players are rivals, but off the pitch they stick together by collaborating on projects like this. It serves as an example: when they join forces and support each other, they can achieve great things. As a union, we can translate this into fighting together for their rights as players.”
The initiative has grown significantly since 2016: the public in Czechia now also send their unwanted shoes, while partnerships with the likes of Adidas and Czech retailers Sportfotbal and 11Teamsports has resulted in leftover stock being sourced from stores.
Through the years, Shoes4Life has made many donations to people in African countries such as Angola, Cape Verde, Ghana, Nigeria and Rwanda.
Porsch said: “Shoes4Life is a clean, completely non-profit, low-cost project, brought to life by a simple idea: to selflessly help those who need it.”