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FutboLISTAS X Fútbol Más: Creating Safe Spaces for Girls to Learn & Grow

Beyond Sport X Under Armour Participant Spotlight

September 8, 2023

Last week our #SportForSocialChange retail donation campaign in partnership with Under Armour expanded into Germany and Spain. In celebration we’re spotlighting the participating charities that are using sport to inspire and teach valuable lessons to youth. Today meet Fútbol Más and FutboLISTAS who are working together to create inclusive safe spaces for girls to learn and grow through football across Spain.

Many young girls in Spain face societal norms and gender stereotypes that discourage them from participating in sports or pursuing certain activities. These stereotypes can reinforce the idea that sports are more suitable for boys, limiting girls' confidence and opportunities to engage in physical activities. This not only has a detrimental effect on their physical and mental health, but also limits their access to the benefits and opportunities that sports provide.

According to a 2021 Women in Sport study, only 40% of girls in Spain are meeting recommended physical activity levels as compared to 63% of boys. The High Council for Sports in Spain also highlighted that girls' dropout rates from sports activities increase around ages 12-14, attributed to self-esteem issues, body image concerns and limited female-focused programs. Additionally, an absence of visible women athletes in mainstream media and limited representation in coaching and leadership roles, makes it challenging for young girls to envision themselves succeeding in sports.

In response, Fútbol Más and FutboLISTAS have joined forces to be able to reach more girls, teaching them to play football while also educating on valuable life skills and engaging on timely social issues.

Fútbol Más España

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Founded in 2007 in Chile, Fútbol Más is an international NGO with headquarters and projects in 13 countries across three continents. Its Spain program, currently operating in the Basque country, Madrid and Andalusia, was established in 2020 to promote physical and emotional wellbeing, education and inclusion in communities. It has a particular focus on protecting young people and its ‘Green Card’ methodology is a tool, symbol and philosophy that promotes values such as respect, responsibility, teamwork, creativity and joy, as well as reinforcing the positive essence of football. 

Through sport and play, the NGO supports children and adolescents who have been deprived of their human rights and are exposed to issues that threaten their physical and mental health development. These can include poverty, social exclusion, normalised violence, drug trafficking, low quality education, unemployment, crime, sedentary lifestyles and dysfunctional families. In each of the regions where it operates, the organisation’s team of professionals analyse the relevant social issues and then adapt programming to local contexts.

“It is very interesting to see how children and young people learn concepts such as empathy, confidence or emotional regulation through the game; or how they learn about their rights, about racial and gender stereotypes and prejudices. It is surprising to see the level of internalisation they reach and how they then apply them both on and off the pitch,” shared Executive Director Aitor Hernandez.

Using a custom “socio-sports intervention methodology” based on resilience, its programs teach life skills to children, while empowering their communities to create safe spaces for them. While children participate in workshops, young people and adults are trained in schools where they acquire tools that allow them to strengthen community cohesion and manage their own socio-sports program, thus creating community-sustained projects.

The organisation believes that football is an ideal tool for working with young people because it is universal, promotes teamwork, is a powerful educational tool and is an amplifier of both the good and bad in society. ‘By doing’, young people learn meaningful skills that they can immediately put into practice in real life while enjoying a sense of belonging and shared identity.

“There is no need for the people involved to speak the same language or share cultural codes. You just need to know the rules. The ball serves as a language. This allows people to communicate and understand each other on the pitch and allows them to play, collaborate, enjoy themselves and create positive bonds," explained Hernandez. "It is very important to work on all these socio-emotional skills through football, especially in vulnerable contexts, where children and young people do not have so many opportunities to develop these skills. Moreover, doing it together with the school, working as a team, is always a huge added value that helps to build a safe and protective environment for children and youth.”

The NGO is now partnering with fellow Beyond Sport X Under Armour program participant FutboLISTAS to address challenges faced by Spanish girls. “When we collaborate and cooperate, the value contribution and impact are multiplied. At Fútbol Más Spain we believe that working hand in hand with FutboLISTAS will help us to generate a greater impact and raise awareness about the equality of girls and women in football and sport. In turn, we want to infuse their activities with our socio-sporting methodology…We believe that with this union, football will transform the reality of many girls who live in vulnerable situations in Spain and who do not have access to sport.”

In celebration of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which Spain went on to win, FutboLISTAS, Fútbol Más, the Real Betis Foundation and the Junta de Andalucía held a football camp for girls. The free summer camp for 5–12-year-olds drew from four different Seville neighbourhoods, three of which are within Spain’s four poorest communities. After a month of training, making friends, reflecting on gender stereotypes and prejudices, watching the World Cup and learning about role models, most of the girls wanted to sign up and keep playing. Over 160 girls participated and were able to meet 17 professional athlete mentors in virtual and in-person sessions, including several professional footballers.

“The positive atmosphere at the Camps [was] wonderful and truly transformed the reality of many girls from Seville, who at the beginning of the summer did not imagine themselves playing football but by the end of the summer did not want to stop learning and practising it,” shared Hernandez. “The camp also drew in top level players who answered questions from the girls, including celebrated professional footballer and doctor, Nadia Nadim.” 

With funds raised from the Beyond Sport X Under Armour campaign and seed funding provided by the retailer, Fútbol Más hopes to be able to continue transforming the reality of girls and young women living in vulnerable situations through additional socio-sports activities and events.


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FutboLISTAS launched in 2019 in response to the severe lack of football clubs for girls in Seville, Spain. Having grown up as an avid football player in the US, the organisation’s Founder and CEO, Brittany Gropp, felt that the lack of participation opportunities for girls meant that they would miss out on the valuable life skills, increased confidence and community-building benefits that playing sports provides. Studies have shown that girls who play sports have a more positive body image, higher confidence levels and lower levels of depression; a 2014 global study of 400 women in leadership also found that 94% of them had played sports growing up.

The organisation conducted its own study into why girls had so few opportunities to play and ultimately discovered that it was largely due to discriminatory gender stereotypes. With that FutboLISTAS was born as a safe space for girls to play football, as well as a platform to challenge cultural and traditional norms amongst local communities, the girls and their families. The bilingual football project for 5- to 12-year-old girls promotes healthy lifestyles and advances personal, academic and professional development. The focus on football was chosen due to its popularity in Spain and around the world.

“It is important that families and the community understand that when children – boys or girls – play football, they learn invaluable lessons in teamwork, leadership, communication, perseverance and other key life skills," shared Gropp. "It’s about time that girls in Seville, and especially in the most vulnerable communities in Seville, have access to sport programs and the infinite benefits of participating in them."

FutboLISTAS is targeting the lack of access to football for women and girls at grassroots, competitive and noncompetitive level. Although access has improved since 2019, there remains a huge demand for girls’ football teams in Seville and especially in the city’s most vulnerable communities. “As of last year, there were only 10 girls football programs offered in Seville for a population of over 34,000 girls under 14. There are not many opportunities for girls to learn through sport in the three low-income neighbourhoods where we ran our summer camp, all of which are within Spain’s top four poorest neighbourhoods.”

Additionally, most existing girls’ clubs in Seville run competitive programmes that focus on winning. Through the partnership with Fútbol Más, the organisation is working to create a safe space for girls in football where they can learn to be #MoreThanAthletes. By removing the emphasis on competition, programming becomes more inclusive and encourages girls who don’t necessarily want to be professional footballers one day to continue to play and learn. FutboLISTAS and Fútbol Más are the only two programmes in the city that offer recreational football focused on life skills and community-building.

“FutboLISTAS is thrilled to be uniting forces with Fútbol Más España to increase sustainability of our flagship program, which aims to build a safe, inclusive space for girls on the football field. Our four-year-old startup looks forward to its program benefiting from the added support of Fútbol Más’ experienced, global staff and the added impact from its award-winning Green Card methodology.”

Through mentorship, the organisation is also working to address the lack of role models for girls. As Gropp explains, “there are unfortunately many career fields that still feature limited, if any, female representatives in textbooks, movies and local media. At FutboLISTAS, we often repeat the phrase coined by Billie Jean King, ‘If you can see it, you can be it’ – and not only because it's catchy! This phrase is also backed by a study conducted by Inspiring Girls which notes that 70% of girls feel differently about their futures after hearing from women role models.”

FutboLISTAS blends its sports sessions with monthly mentorship sessions from local professional women from diverse careers to show girls that the skills they are learning on the pitch can be applied to many aspects of their lives. Mentors include professional footballers, NASA engineers, journalists, neurologists, psychologists, biologists and more. The organisation wants girls to feel proud to be strong, smart and ambitious and also help them to see that they are capable of achieving their wildest dreams.

This was evident at an International Women’s Day event this year. Gropp shared that one of their girls, 7-year-old Olivia, participated and had the chance to meet professional footballer Rosa Marquez who was from the same pueblo outside of Seville as her. “When Rosa was asked by one of our players if she made money playing football and Rosa answered 'yes'. Olivia’s jaw dropped and she gasped and blurted out, ‘You can make money playing football!?’ ’’

FutboLISTAS also hosts community-building sessions for the girls and their families to encourage community integration of children and youth with their environment, through artistic, cultural, educational and inclusion activities. Currently operating in Seville, plus events at two summer camps in Huelva and Rota (Cádiz), it hopes to be able to expand to other cities by uniting with Fútbol Más, who will also help on monitoring and evaluating its impact.

“This funding couldn’t come at a more ideal time. We are in a transitional period where we are looking to combine forces to improve FutboLISTAS’ methodology, increase our impact in Sevilla and eventually expand our impact to other parts of Spain. [We will] analyse which neighbourhoods have the greatest need for our programming following the surge of clubs offering girls football since the 2021 Euro Cup. It will also ensure we can adapt our programming to include Fútbol Más’ methodology and add coaches with backgrounds in social work to ensure that our work doesn’t end on the football field. We look forward to developing a scalable strategy that can be exported to other cities in Spain, as well,” shared Gropp.

Learn more about the incredible organisations we're working to support in the UK and Europe HERE. If you live in Spain, please consider visiting your local Under Armour store to support #SportforSocialChange! 


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