Way back in 2009, Henry May formed a Sunday league team in London with a group of his friends.
Sure, that sounds like a pretty unremarkable thing to do in theory - but what has happened since the formation of that team has been rather remarkable.
The team, named in honour of his adopted Argentine football team, Club Atletico Huracan, whom he'd begun to support after working as a teacher in South America, would garner media attention across the globe in the following few years, creating its own fanbase in Argentina.
The swell of support for the team was such that they were invited to South America to play exhibition matches against Argentine teams, including a certain Club Atletico Huracan.
That 2011 tour is what would lead to what we at 90min are spotlighting this week: The Huracan Foundation.
During the tour, Henry states that: "We all learned the incredible power that football has.
"When we came back to London we decided that we should do something more with this incredible story we have of fans from Argentina and a club from London. So we decided to create The Huracan Foundation to support projects around the world that were using football to transform education in their communities."
Since then, The Huracan Foundation has supported projects led by teachers from the Teach For All network - who are working in under-privileged communities across the globe - to improve both children's attendance and performance in school.
"Magic can happen when you give early stage projects and inspirational leaders support."
In supporting projects across 15 countries in six continents, The Huracan Foundation has had a hugely positive impact in tackling social issues. These have ranged from reducing gender inequality and improving opportunities for girls, to steering children away from drugs and local gangs.
Key to current projects being run by the Huracan Foundation is their 'Keep girls in school in 2022', which aims to improve opportunities for girls and reduce gender inequalities.
The global pandemic exacerbated gender inequality issues in a number of countries, and that is why in 2022 four new project leads are focused on using football to make a real difference to girls' lives in remote communities across Uganda and India.
The projects that are a part of the campaign are:
At Jhamtse Children’s Community Centre in a remote region of northeast India, this Huracan project is working with children who all come from backgrounds of trauma and adversity. It has two aims; firstly to help instil a level of discipline and an understanding of responsibility in the children, and secondly to increase the participation of girls in sport. Alongside this, they will be helping to develop a number of life skills in the children and helping to broaden their outlooks for the future.
Uganda (Kumi district):
In Uganda the average primary school dropout rate is 45% but this rate is much higher amongst girls. The project works with girls’ parents in three villages, helping them understand the need for the girls to receive an equal education while giving them the opportunity to play football on a regular basis. The project aims to improve both their physical and mental health and give them a new focus outside of the home.
"Since I started running the Huracan FC football project at my school, I have seen first hand the impact it has had on my kids school attendance and how more children are encouraged to attend school just to play football. "- Andrew Magero, Uganda
Uganda (Mayuge district):
In Isikiro Primary School and within this school’s community in Mayuge District, Uganda, 27 young girls fell pregnant during lockdown. This project has three specific aims: to reduce teenage pregnancies, lower school dropouts and help the children with their mental health. By giving the children the incentive and motivation of playing football as a means of encouraging them to attend school, the aim is to reduce school dropout rates from 47% to 5% over the course of the year.
In Bwiwula village, many of the boys in the community choose paid manual labour as an alternative to school and the girls are required to stay at home to help with domestic work, so school absenteeism is typically around 70%. This project hopes to tackle this by using the football team to encourage the children to attend school more regularly, with a particular focus on supporting the girls. Additional sessions run alongside the football training will also work on the girls' leadership skills and help to develop their sense of responsibility.
At St Kizito Kanyabwina Primary School only 25% of girls who enrol in school finish their primary education due to either falling pregnant at a very young age - being forced into early marriage or needing to stay at home to earn money for the family. As such literacy levels among girls are staggeringly low. With the football team in place, the project hopes to really give the girls the opportunity they need to build their self esteem, continue their studies and ensure they have a role in the community outside of the home.
"A girls’ football team is beneficial for not only the girls themselves but the school and the community. It will boost self-esteem, reduce dropout rates and provide the community with a team they can be proud of. We know when given the opportunity, women can do anything."- Denise Mirembe, Project Leader, Huracan
- You can support these fantastic projects by donating to the Huracan Foundation's 'Keep Girls in School in 2022' campaign here.
As well as running the aforementioned campaign, Huracan are also supporting a number of other projects including:
Working specifically with children aged 9-12 in Ecatepec de Morelos and focusing on developing football skills alongside the core academics and teaching of socio-emotional skills. The project hopes to increase the number of children who move on to secondary school.
Uganda (Luweero district):
Mayuge district is ranked among the worst performers in Uganda for primary school leaving exams year after year. Huracan FC Eduball will work across a number of schools in the district, using football as a medium to bring the children to school as well as ensuring school is an interesting place to be. Eduball will both provide football training sessions at school and also give each child a dedicated mentor to support their progress. The project will also develop the Huracan FC EduBall football league and tournament – the first of its kind for primary school children in Mayuge.
"Football can provide the catalyst for change in communities where education is undervalued."- Barrie, THF volunteer
At the Alec Reed Academy in West London, the proportion of students receiving the Government’s Pupil Premium grant is above average and many children must surmount numerous challenges in order to reach their full potential. This project aims to increase student leadership skills and build confidence levels by finding ways to recognise non-academic achievements, such as football, ultimately giving the boys a real sense of inspiration and direction through the sport.
- Donate to these, and all of the great work that the Huracan Foundation is doing throughout the world.