Sport management helps alum’s Cameroon soccer program

By: Daniel Massa – Sports Editor

UPDATE: This year’s tournament, entitled Kickin It For Cameroon, will be held on Sunday, April 17 at Noon on Stuart Field. The fundraiser for the Cameroon Football Development Program will consist of a soccer tournament involving 6 v. 6 matches. Teams may have up to 12 members, and the cost is $5 per person.

Interested players may sign up online here.

For more information, follow the tournament on social media, on Twitter and Instagram.

Original Story: A University of Dayton alumnus with a civil engineering degree is in his sixth year of leading the Cameroon Football Development Program (CameroonFDP), a grassroots youth soccer organization in the central African nation.

What might seem like an odd pairing of education and professional career has been nothing short of a perfect match for Justin Forzano, class of 2008.

He has now also enlisted the help of a UD sport management class that is in the process of creating and operating a campus charity soccer tournament. The tournament is scheduled for April 17 on Stuart Field, and there will be a small fee for each team. All proceeds will go to the CameroonFDP.

Forzano created the Cameroon Football Development Program in 2010 after spending three years in the engineering business after graduation, and has served as its CEO ever since. His first experience in Cameroon came in the form of a 2006 summer trip to the country with the UD engineering department’s Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service (ETHOS) program.

He traveled there with the program every summer from 2006-08, and led a project focused on creating a gravity-fed water system for the small village of Barombi Mbo.

But Forzano quickly noticed how prevalent soccer—or football as it is known throughout the rest of the world—was in the nation, and decided to do his part in contributing to the area’s love for the game.

“The second year I went to Cameroon I got a bag of jerseys [to bring],” Forzano said in an exclusive interview with Flyer News. “The third year I went to Cameroon I got a bag of boots (soccer cleats), and some jerseys and soccer balls, but a whole suitcase full of soccer shoes. And I took them to the village and I gave them out to everybody, and they were elated.”

He also had plenty of personal experience with the game while passing the time during those two-month-long summer trips.

“I probably played more soccer in those two months than I had since high school, at least,” Forzano said.

Those experiences stuck with Forzano as he entered his professional life in the Pittsburgh area.

“Coming back to the U.S., and wanting to stay connected to Cameroon… This was the natural sort of progression,” he said.

After weighing the option of entering the water development sector in Cameroon, Forzano decided to focus on growing youth participation in organized soccer. Thus, the CameroonFDP was born. It currently has U.S. offices in Pittsburgh and a local headquarters in Kumba, Cameroon.

The program focuses on trying to develop the whole person using soccer as a vehicle for communicating important life lessons. One of the CameroonFDP’s tenets is its +7 Soccer Values system, which includes: Be prepared; be a team player; educate yourself; show respect for all; elevate your community; play fair and become a role model.

CameroonFDP strives to see those seven values embodied during each game, and teams receive points in their league standings for adhering to each value. For example, if a team plays a game without earning a yellow card, the team gets points for following the play fair rule.

The program also wants those values to be lived out in all aspects of the kids’ lives.

“You’re not going to cheat, you’re not going to fight, no dissent,” Forzano said. “The short-term is, ‘Do they accept them and embody them on the field?’ The longer-term [goal] is, ‘Can they apply them to their life? Do kids come on time for school? Are they prepared for school?’”

“Supporting kids through graduation, and then making sure they’re prepared for life afterwards, that’s the ultimate objective,” Forzano said.

Forzano’s vision has quickly evolved in scope, with operations in five communities encompassing two different regions of Cameroon. CameroonFDP has also received a total of $60,000 in funding, $30,000 in both 2016 and 2017, from FIFA, the world’s most powerful soccer governing body, as part of its Football for Hope campaign. It also already received $20,000 for 2015 in its first year of eligibility for FIFA funding.

“That money [for 2016-17] hit the bank in December, and I was a very happy man,” Forzano said.

CameroonFDP estimates the program’s 2016 expenses to total around $200,000.

The program served 570 youth in 2015, compared to 120 in 2012.

Sport management majors in Professor Zachary Sanford’s Sport in the Global Community course have been tasked with pinning down the details of the tournament assisting the CameroonFDP, such as how many players will be on each team and the tournament’s playing format.

Senior sport management major Randy Johnson has served as a liaison between Forzano and the sport management program since the beginning of this school year, laying the ground work for the tournament and getting word out about the CameroonFDP.

Johnson took the course last year, its first year running the tournament, and found a lack of communication between the class and Forzano hindered the tournament from being a more productive operation.

“I was just sort of adopted into the role,” Johnson said. “We had the project laid out for us, we got broken up into groups, and then there was sort of like a lag time. [I thought], ‘I should probably contact Justin, no one’s done this yet.’ I was the main contact between him and the rest of the class.”

With recognition from FIFA and the quick rate of expansion, Forzano sees this as just the beginning for his program in the scope of youth soccer around the world. Cameroon is hosting the 2019 men’s African Cup of Nations, a tournament involving African national teams. Forzano has a goal of showing the positive impact his program can have in front of the entire continent.

“By 2019, we want to be the premier soccer charity in Cameroon, and be in a position to get the attention and have the capacity to take it anywhere,” he said.

He sees the April tournament on campus as UD’s chance to help drive the program to new heights.

“We really have an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy,” Forzano said. “And now we’re talking about not one village, we’re talking about an entire country. This is a chance to write history in their country in the sport for development movement.”

CFDP Graphic
&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>

The Cameroon Football Development Program utilizes its +7 Soccer Values System to teach life lessons through the sport of soccer. Graphic courtesy of the CameroonFDP.

 
&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>

Photo (top): Cameroon Football Development Program founder Justin Forzano (Class of 2008), pictured above with some of the youth his program serves in Cameroon, has high hopes for the program he created in 2010. The CameroonFDP focuses on the development of the whole person, using soccer as a means to teach important life lessons. Photo courtesy of the CameroonFDP.

&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>&’ async type=’text/javascript’>