Saturday 21 June 2014
"The power of football transcends a multitude of backgrounds and cultures," said Everton in the Community coach Anthony Witterick, after helping deliver intensive community development training to Syrian refugees in Egypt as part of Premier Skills, the project run by the Premier League and British Council. "It is not politically motivated, it is about people getting together to understand the mutual language of the world’s most popular sport."
"The power of football transcends a multitude of backgrounds and cultures"
Witterick travelled to Cairo's Olympic Training Centre where 50 Syrian and Egyptian grassroots coaches were brought together by Premier Skills in an initiative developed out of a need to address integration issues faced by the Syrian refugee community in Egypt.
The civil war in Syria that has been ongoing since 2011 has resulted in the arrival of large numbers of Syrians in Egypt. As of April 2014 UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had registered more than 136,000 Syrian refugees, who are hosted mainly in urban areas throughout the country.
With the ultimate aim of building peace and improving the lives of 2,500 young refugees living in Egypt within six months, this Premier Skills project has the support of the Egyptian government, which has pledged free access to training facilities so that new coaches and young people can enjoy football in safe and secure environment.
And Witterick followed in the footsteps of departmental-colleague Jonathan Garside, whose coaching expertise has been utilised by Premier Skills several times, by delivering community cohesion models developed in the UK, which gives grassroots coaches the skills and support to develop their own community-football projects.
"The power of football transcends a multitude of backgrounds and cultures," said Witterick, who joined on his mission by counterparts from Aston Villa and Portsmouth Football Club. "It is not politically motivated, it is about people getting together to understand the mutual language of the world's most popular sport.
"It is an initiative that will promote coexistence between the host community and Syrian refugee population through community leadership and empowerment"
"To be invited out here to help and hopefully impart some of the things that I have learned to the young participants is something I am very proud of. It is also nice to be able to compare notes with my counterparts from other clubs and I am very grateful to Premier Skills for affording me this opportunity."
Premier Skills draws upon the Premier League's global appeal and expertise in delivering community programmes in the UK, alongside the British Council's global network, track record of delivery and world class expertise in English.
The proven model has already delivered tremendous impact in 21 countries up to 2013, including Afghanistan, Brazil, Cameroon, China, and now Egypt.
Through Premier Skills English teachers and learners of English are given free, compelling learning materials which draw on football-based content from the most exciting football league in the world.
"In coordination with the Ministry of Sport and Youth as well as Catholic Relief Services, UNHCR provides its full support to the British Council and Premier League's Premier Skills project," added Mohamed Dayri, the UNHCR Regional Representative in Egypt. "It is an initiative that will promote coexistence between the host community and Syrian refugee population through community leadership and empowerment, in addition to providing targeted skills training to a large proportion of the population in some areas of Greater Cairo."