Arena of Change project launch at FC Bayern Campus

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The children and teenagers can hardly contain their excitement as they jump off the bus that has driven them to the FC Bayern Campus. Teachers Anna Kronen and Teresa Jehlicka are waiting for them there, and pandemonium ensues. “Hey, how’s it going?” Teresa calls and waves. “Done anything exciting already today?” The noise levels increase as the children – all aged between eight and 14 years old – are meeting each other in person for the first time. “I’m looking forward so much to today,” says Mustafa, 11. “I want to make new friends here and play football!”

What’s happened so far

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the ‘Arena of Change’ has taken place exclusively via video conferences up to now, which all involved have carried out with much creativity and improvisation. “I was so excited, and the whole time I’ve been wondering what the kids really look like, how tall they are for example,” says teacher Anna. After all, not all the children had a webcam at home. To begin with, the focus is on team building. “We want the children to get to know each other in a fun way and grow together as a group.” The four groups, who are at the Campus from Monday to Thursday on a rotational basis, each comprise 15 children, who all come from different schools and boroughs in Munich.

At first, the children are excited by the FC Bayern Campus more than anything. “Wow, this is totally impressive,” says Serhat, 12. “Maybe we’ll see a Bayern player somewhere,” hopes Marcel, 11. After lunch in the Campus canteen, the children enter the project room, where bags of surprise are sitting on the tables in the middle. “Oh, my name’s on there!” shouts Laura, 8, pleased about the autograph cards of the Bayern players. “We’ve already met Leroy Sané by video.” Laura and Serhat fish the t-shirt with the ‘Arena of Change’ logo out of the bag – and immediately put it on over their clothes.

“We want to see how the children integrate.”

Anna Kronen (Teacher)

“We start every meeting with our happiness diary, where the children tell each other about the nice things they experienced in the last week,” explains Verena Milasta, project manager for SOS Children’s Villages International. Creating rituals is an important element of the ‘Arena of Change’ concept. And then the kids get going: “I got new swimming armbands last week!” “I finally got to visit my grandparents!” “I played football with my brother in the garden!” In every answer, you sense the relief at finally going out again after months of lockdown. “The past months have been very hard and lonely for a lot of children,” says Verena. That makes it all the more important to give them fresh impetus with the ‘Arena of Change’. “We thought about postponing the project because of coronavirus, but the signal from the schools was clear: if not now, then when?”

Fun team building

Then it's off outside, to the spacious grounds of the campus. The children have to line up in order of size - without talking loudly. "Hey, you did a good job," praises Anna, the supervisor. The next task is already waiting: "So, now line up alphabetically according to the first letters of your first names.” The aim of each of these little exercises is to enjoy the game, always with an educational ulterior motive. “We want to see how the children integrate," says Anna. After the get-to-know-you week, more detailed workshops, for example on environmental protection and sustainability, are on the agenda. Each week follows a different theme. “We don't have a strict curriculum, though,” Teresa adds. Pressure to learn should absolutely be avoided.

In a special video conference, the kids got to drill the former CEO with questions, among others:

The purpose of the ‘Arena of Change’ is to support the children’s talents. With this project, SOS Children’s Villages International and FC Bayern Munich are also fulfilling their responsibility to enthuse children beyond the sport and to offer them a comprehensive programme combining sport, art, science and sociopolitical issues. The project is due to last for two years. For the courses, the children are picked up from their schools by buses, and each afternoon begins with a communal lunch.

What the future brings

One of the elements of the early days is creating a mini CV. “What I want to be when I grow up” and “What I want to change” are on the piece of paper. Enida, 11, writes that her roots are in Macedonia. She wants to get better at German – and become more sporty. What’s her wish for the future? “No bullying, respecting people as they are.” Emma, 14, has similar wishes and hopes “that everyone in society feels happy, that everyone is doing well – both animals and humans”. She has to write her motto at the very top of the CV. “Live your life the way you want to!” writes Emma in the top line. The ‘Arena of Change’ will certainly help her with that.

The ‘Arena of Change’ is a joint education project between FC Bayern Munich and SOS Children’s Villages International. We want to help children and young people discover their talents and carve out their own life journey. Further information 👇

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