Ball State to use soccer to improve U.S. relationship with central Asian nation

Topic: College of Applied Sciences and Technology

January 30, 2014

Ball State University faculty will lead a sports exchange program with soccer enthusiasts in Tajikistan over the next two years in the hopes of using the sport to improve relations between the United States and the central Asian nation and form stable, inclusive communities in a former Soviet republic still recovering from a 1990s civil war.

Through a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s SportsUnited Division and the International Sports Programming Initiative (ISPI), Ball State plans to create Sport for Social Change in Tajikistan.

“We have an excellent team of professionals working on this project who are passionate and knowledgeable,” said project director Lindsey Blom, associate professor of sport and exercise psychology at Ball State. “We are excited about the opportunity to develop relationships among teachers, coaches and youth in Indiana and Tajikistan through the game of soccer.”

Ball State will partner with the National Taekwondo and Kickboxing Federation of Tajikistan and the Committee of Youth Affairs, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Tajikistan, as well as the Indiana Soccer Association to develop citizenship, leadership, peaceful living skills and healthy living habits in Tajik youth. The program builds upon a previous effort in 2012-13, when Ball State led a similar exchange in Jordan.

Blom believes soccer will be key to reaching the project goals in three phases. In April, a small team of professionals from the U.S. will travel to the Tajik cities of Dushanbe and Khujand to recruit teachers who are willing to serve as league directors.

In the fall, phase two includes a two-week trip to the U.S, where the league directors will receive training in technical and tactical soccer skills, peaceful living and leadership, and the creation of sustainable soccer leagues.

Upon their return to Tajikistan, the league directors will create youth soccer leagues for ages 8-14 in four regional hubs. Phase three involves Ball State faculty members traveling to Panj, Panjakent, Asht, Tursunzoda, Konibodom, Isfara, Dushanbe, Kulob and Qurghonteppa in the summer of 2015 to conduct follow-up workshops and soccer clinics to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the leagues.

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