With national teams from more than 200 countries classified in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings, football stands alone as the world’s most popular sport enjoyed by millions of aspiring young players in schools, parks and streets each day. While universal in appeal and popularity, Coca-Cola recently set out to understand the role football plays in the development of young people’s lives by exploring the playing habits, aspirations and motivations of teen footballers around the world.

To gain such a thorough view of the global game, Coca-Cola commissioned research firm Nielsen to interview more than 11,000 football-playing teenagers from 16 countries across five continents*. The findings are available in a comprehensive report as Copa Coca-Cola, the world’s largest brand-supported grassroots football program, reaches the climax of a season with more than 1.3 players from more than 60 countries. Later this week, Coca-Cola will host more than 100 teens from 27 countries for a six-day International Copa Coca-Cola Camp in Berlin, Germany. 

Copa Coca-Cola

The research revealed that as well as improving on-pitch performance, teens who play football frequently are reaping rewards when it comes to learning important life skills such as teamwork, confidence and sociability. nearly eight out of 10 (79%) of young people feel playing football helps them to develop essential in skills in teamwork that can be applied away from the football pitch. Additionally, 42% of respondents believe that playing football has helped boost their confidence and more than six out of ten young players believing that discipline learned on the pitch helps them achieve more in their lives. 

Click here for an infographic featuring highlights from the report.

Copa Coca-Cola

Fitness and health are ranked as important priorities for young footballers, with almost two thirds ranking fitness as the primary reason for playing the game and three quarters of teens affirming that they feel fit and healthy. Young people who play football also appear happier than their non-playing peers, with three-quarters (74%) considering themselves happy compared with 57% of 15,000 teens who were polled but do not play the game.

Copa Coca-Cola

The research underscores the importance of role-models with more teens naming their parents as role models than those who selected famous sportspeople.  The most admired trait that teenagers see in role models was named as hard work (61%), followed by acting responsibly (54%), honesty (51%) and confidence (48%).  While the study saw largely similar responses from male and female teenagers, around a third of females (31%) believe that opportunities for girls to play football are limited in their country and 30% find it difficult to play regularly due to the lack of other girls that can play. Encouragingly, fewer than one in five girls (18%) felt that football is geared towards boys.

At the International Copa Coca-Cola Camp, which runs July 26-31 in Berlin, players will be asked, "What part will you play?" to recognize that every footballer plays an important role on his or her team both on the pitch and through positive and important contributions off the field. 

Download the ‘What Part Will You Play?’ global research report.

* Research was conducted by Nielson in November and December 2014, sampling 11,315 teens between the ages of 13 and18 in 16 countries: Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, the United States and Venezuela.