Participants in the just-concluded English Premier League, British Council Premier Skills project have commended the organisers of the project for giving them opportunity to enhance their skills.

The Premier Skills project ended recently after 13 years of training coaches in Lagos and Kano. Narrating his experience from the Premier Skills programme, Emmanuel Okere, a level one trained coach/educator said he explored the project to reform the lives of hundreds of touts and students in his Orile community.

According to him, “After the success of the training and phases of our project delivery, we were screened from 48 to 20 to participate in the mentorship coaching course delivered by qualified coaches from the English Premier League.

“At the conclusion of the training in 2014, we were given some grants to identify one issue in our community and employ the power of sports to address it.

“When I looked around my community, Coker Orile axis, Lagos, the students always engaged in inter-school fighting, while some others bullied their mates or gambled etc. So, we established a football club named Treasure FC, which we used to train the youths on leadership and life skills, as well as football at Coker Sports complex.

“The project accommodated both male and female youngsters of every ethnic group in Orile. The club helped them to socialise, interact and unite everyone.

“In fact, it took most of them away from drugs and substance abuse.”

According to Okere, over the years, the club has accommodated numerous new members and transformed to a social outfit that supports members’ celebrations such as wedding, house warming, birthday and funereal.

Another beneficiary of the programme, former Super Falcons invitee, Chinasa Mandy Ukandu, who became a qualified football coach through the Premier Skills project, said it helped her to start a career in football coaching after a long injury lay off that ended her football career.

“I am a football coach and also a Premier Skills coach/educator. I work with children, girls included, to share my love and passion for football.

“From childhood, I had a passion for the game of football and decided to pursue my dream by playing for different clubs in Nigeria. As a young girl, I had to deal with contempt from family members, who couldn’t understand why a girl would be interested in playing football. But I persevered until everything changed when I was invited to play for the Super Falcons in 2012.

“When the team was preparing for a friendly game against South Africa, I got injured in camp while training. This injury affected my football career growth, but I forged ahead.

“I started my football journey again when I joined the British Council’s Community Action Through Sports (CATS) Project in 2005, where I saw how football could be used to impact the lives of youths.”
Ukandu said she first participated in the 2011 Premier Skills Programme, which trained grassroots coaches on the skills they need to contribute positively in community development programmes.

“With both my work in the present CATS (Community Action Through Sport) and the Premier Skills Programme, I work with young girls and with adults to positively influence the community and the world around me.

“In 2019, I became the first woman to win the Future Stars Award, an initiative of Arsenal Football Club and World Remit. I was flown to London for a personalised training session with Arsenal Football Development coaches.

“Premier Skills taught me the value of leadership and teamwork. The skills, knowledge and experience I gained through Premier Skills will forever be a part of my journey.”

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