Colombia’s most popular youth soccer club is offering a new service to young people, encouraging them to join the team and help raise money for charities.
The new initiative is called “Ainquil” (Team), and it is part of a larger plan by the national team to help boost youth soccer in Colombia and make it a success.
The program started in June, and its aim is to increase the number of members, and encourage more of them to sign up, by encouraging the younger generation to participate in a variety of activities, such as running and jogging, running and swimming, playing sports, and participating in other activities that are traditionally associated with the team.
The plan also aims to raise money, with the aim of providing the club with additional funds to run its training camp.
The initiative is supported by the Ministry of Sport, the Department of Sports and the National Youth Soccer Federation, with a total budget of 1,500,000 reais ($8,000).
The programme is being run by the youth organisation Atletico Boca, which is run by one of Colombia’s top football managers.
He said that his organisation would be the main focus of the programme, and would be tasked with recruiting and training 20,000 people, or 10,000 of whom would be young people.
“We have been very impressed with the work that we are doing,” Atletico CEO Jorge Valdes told Al Jazeera.
“We have seen the impact of the program and the commitment that we have from the club.
I am very pleased to be part of this project.”
He added that it was the first time the organisation had been given a role in youth soccer.
“There is a need for a lot of things in the youth sector, and this is the first initiative that gives the club a lot more influence in the lives of young people,” he said.
“This will give the club more opportunities to build on.”
The idea of the team, which started in 2012, is to create an opportunity for young people to compete against adults, rather than against each other.
The team has been able to grow its membership to about 15,000 since the start of the year, and it has a strong following in the local soccer community.
Valdes explained that the majority of the club’s members are under the age of 20, with younger players also participating in the programme.
“It is a program that is geared to young adults,” he added.
“Our main objective is to reach a younger age group, so that they can participate in sports that they normally do not.”
The number of players participating in youth football has increased exponentially since the programme began, with some clubs now offering a monthly membership fee of 50,000, Valdes added.
The youth football team at Atletico is one of the most popular clubs in Colombia, with at least 100,000 members, according to data provided by the club, which has grown from just under 30,000 to over 40,000.
“The club has about 80,000 players, and we have around 10,500 players who play in the league,” said Atletico manager Javier Valdes.
“So, the total number of kids who play is around 20,500.”
The Atletico team has also raised funds for a number of charity projects.
In the past few months, the club has donated over 40 million reais to charities, including the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), and the Fundacion de Cerveteria del Pueblo, which aims to improve the lives and health of children and families.
“Our team has helped us with the charity projects we have been doing for a long time,” Valdes said.
“Some of them are charities that are very small and very close to us, and these projects we work with have been really good for us.”
The club also donated to charity more than a dozen local projects in the city of Puebla, which, like the rest of Colombia, has a large number of poverty-related issues, including drug addiction and a lack of access to basic healthcare.
In addition, the team has donated more than 5 million reis ($4,000) to the government-run National Fund for the Promotion of Sport in the country.
“Atletico has a good track record in supporting local sports projects,” Valdespes added, adding that he is sure the club will be able to contribute even more to the country’s youth league in the future.
“In the long run, this will also be a way to give a lot to the communities that we work in, because we can see that young people can help a lot.”
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JaredBennett