Arsenal legend Ian Wright humbled as EA SPORTS FC FUTURES announces new UNICEF partnership & celebrates one-year anniversary

Former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright has expressed his pride at being involved with the EA SPORTS FC FUTURES initiative following the announcement of a new partnership with UNICEF.

Namibia Futures is a multi-year collaboration that will use the power of football to create long-lasting social change in Namibia and beyond, reaching over 46,000 children and adolescents.

On the work being done by UNICEF and EA SPORTS FC FUTURES, ex-Gunners striker Ian Wright, who is an FC FUTURES ambassador, told GOAL: "The organisation, what UNICEF are and their reach and what they are doing in Namibia, what the sport has given them, the capability, the football, the communication. What they are doing for those people, they are giving them the opportunity to educate themselves.

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"To be involved in that I feel like I’m doing my bit and I look forward to where it’s going. It feels very special and I’m very honoured to be an ambassador. They are doing great work. It comes from grassroots, I’ve come from grassroots and to be involved and make a difference is something that is very humbling."


Speaking about the new initiative, Andrea Hopelain, GM & SVP of Publishing, EA SPORTS, added: "We’re thrilled to expand the partnership between our two organisations, following over five years of successful collaboration between EA SPORTS and Soccer Aid for UNICEF.

"Through this program, we hope to meaningfully impact many young lives in Namibia, using the power of football and our EA SPORTS FC platform."

The EA SPORTS FC FUTURES initiative has opened up grassroots football to over 170,000 people over the course of its first year.

This has seen the development and publishing of a library of seven free-to-access practices, in partnership with UEFA, that are being integrated into 54 National Football Associations and their Coach Education Programmes.

There has also been the creation and refurbishment of 11 pitches globally, from south London to Sydney, while over 12,000 footballs have been provided to grassroots clubs, coaches and children, as well as further items including boots, cones, bibs and more.


Wright’s involvement, meanwhile, has seen him awarded the inaugural FC FUTURES Hero Award, recognising his outstanding work in inspiring the world to love football, alongside a charitable donation to a grassroots football cause.

That included the opening of the Rocky & Wrighty Arena at Turnham Academy, Wright’s former school, with the ex-Gunners forward telling GOAL: “That, for me, was the ultimate, simply because of what it means to my area, what it means to me, Rocky [former Arsenal striker David Rocastle] and the families.

"We grew up in that school and didn’t really have any real playing areas and had the same problem. The women's team too didn't have anywhere to play. So not only does it do well for the school, you also have after school.

"Millwall have gone in and talked about knife crime and mental health - it’s very much a safe space and very much for the community. I’m very proud to have my name on it alongside David Rocastle and very proud we were able to do it in the end. It’s such a great service to the community."


Reflecting on the limitations of the facilities that were available to Wright and Rocastle growing up, Wright, who earned 33 caps for England during his playing career, told GOAL: “It doesn't compare. When we were younger we played a lot of football on the street. You played anywhere you could find grass.

"I remember when we were younger we would find bowling greens and as bad as that was, messing it up, for us it was like Wembley. We would have to get our ball and run away!

"When you look at the facilities now it is chalk and cheese - you'd expect that with the progress. FC FUTURES and EA SPORTS help bridge that gap from virtual to the real world. Now you can get those safe spaces with the football pitches, and with the drills you can go out and practice in real time - a whole different world. I think back and if I had this opportunity I would have done nothing else with my life apart from play that game and go out and practice."

Reflecting on the work being done by FC FUTURES, Wright said: “When you look at what they have done around the world with football pitches in a year it’s extraordinary. It’s a great brand with unbelievable partners who are able to make things happen.

"What we did with my old school [and the creation of the Rocky & Wrighty Arena], what that does now for the community. I was in Australia when we opened Sam Kerr’s pitch - so when you consider what they have done around the world and what UNICEF are doing alongside them it's unbelievable, in respect of levels and speed of which things are moving."

Looking ahead to the second year of the FC FUTURES initiative, in addition to Namibia Futures, there will continue to be the creation of new pitches, access provided to more training practices and playing equipment and the further expansion of its partnerships, all with the ultimate goal of growing the game for all.

Find out more on FC FUTURES and access FC FUTURES ACADEMY, the free digital library of training practices, here. Learn more about the partnership between FC FUTURES and UNICEF here.