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Tuesday 23 July 2013

Premier Skills programmes sow seeds of growth in Hong Kong

Local children, coaches and match officials enjoy Premier Skills grassroots community programme

  • Premier League ambassador Niall Quinn was cheered by the development taking place

  • Girls and boys from Hong Kong learn passing and dribbling at a Premier Skills session

  • Tottenham Hotspur Ambassador Ledley King meets local coaches and referees

  • The programme also helps children learn about healthy lifestyles and personal development

  • Ron Ganfield helps one of 25 match officials understand the fundamental laws of the game

While much of the media attention for the Barclays Asia Trophy has focused on the three Barclays Premier League clubs in Hong Kong with their star players, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland have, along with the Premier League, been helping to put down a legacy for the game on the island that will remain long after the English teams have returned home.

"This programme this is helping to develop a coaching community in Hong Kong"
Premier Skills head coach Jeremy Weeks

During the week of the Barclays Asia Trophy coaches from the three clubs have been at Po Kong Village Road, in Diamond Hill, delivering grassroots community programmes to the local children, coaches and match officials and on Tuesday the participants got a bonus as three former top-flight players paid a visit.

Ledley King, the Tottenham Hotspur ambassador and former captain, Niall Quinn, a Premier League ambassador who played for Sunderland and Manchester City, and Mike Summerbee, the Manchester City ambassador, all joined the adults and kids practising their skills on the pitch.

The whole week there have been three programmes put in place by the Premier League. The first has delivered courses to 30 grassroots coaches from the Hong Kong FA as well as 10 PE teachers from Guangzhou, in China.

In partnership with the British Council and the HKFA, the courses form part of Premier Skills, a long-term programme that has delivered coaching programmes in 21 countries around the world. Delivered by Premier Skills head coach Jeremy Weeks and assisted by the three clubs, the week-long Phase 1 course focuses on developing the coaches' on-pitch delivery skills, as well as helping them understand better the wider social aspects that can be tackled using football. These are exemplified through various coaching behaviours and characteristics, how to deliver inclusive practical sessions and workshops on project planning.

Community development

"One of the key points about this programme is that all the coaches have come from quite different backgrounds," Weeks said. "Not many knew each other so as well as teaching them coaching skills, this is helping to develop a coaching community in Hong Kong. That's important because after we leave we hope these Premier Skills coaches, with the equipment we have given to them, will stay in touch and continue their development through setting up tournaments between the clubs they are at as well as workshops. They all live quite close to each other but had not met so this course will create a network to allow them to continue their development."

"Their offside decisions have been absolutely outstanding"
Match official Ron Ganfield

Through Premier Skills HKFA match officials at the grassroots level are receiving tuition from their elite counterparts in the Premier League. FIFA referees Anthony Taylor and Neil Swarbrick, and their assistants Ron Ganfield and Mick McDonough, have been helping 25 match officials to understand the fundamental laws of the game and draw out key competencies focusing on communication, leadership and fair play.

"We have started with sessions in the classroom where we have gone through the Laws of the Game, because such knowledge is essential if you want to become a referee," Swarbrick said. "Then we have been putting them in practice on the pitch and although less than half the officials have refereed a match, so they are at a basic level, in the three days since we started we can already see a difference, in such as body language, communications, whistle technique."

Ganfield and McDonough have been impressed, not only by the locals’ enthusiasm but also their ability to learn so quickly. "Their offside decisions have been absolutely outstanding, considering they are at an early stage of development," Ganfield said. McDonough had nothing but praise for the attitude of the Hong Kong officials. "They seem very confident, more so than some I have coached in County FAs and the quality of their decisions has been great."

As well as looking to ensure that the right frameworks are in place in Hong Kong for football to develop further, the Premier League's Creating Chances programme, which helps kids from underprivileged backgrounds in England to enjoy the game, was replicated at Po Kong.

Healthy lifestyles

More than 60 boys and girls aged 8-11 from the Hong Kong FA's Junior Fans Club and the Cumberland Presbyterian Yao Dao Primary School, in Tin Shui Wai, received top-quality coaching delivered by Gareth Hughes, the City in the Community Events Manager, and coaches from Spurs and Sunderland.

"It's great to have the top clubs from the Barclays Premier League out here but just as important is the development work done by programmes such as this"
Mark Sutcliffe, CEO, Hong Kong FA

As with Creating Chances in England, the local children have not only been taught new football skills but have learnt about healthy lifestyles and personal development.

"The enthusiasm of the children has taken the heat away and made the sessions very enjoyable," Hughes said. "The kids learn very fast, so we have seen some great dribbling skills, but most of all they are enjoying it."

Nicholas Yap, one of the children, was living his dream, his mum, Joanne said. "We have been learning passing, dribbling and shooting and I am very happy doing it," Nicholas said.

The development of talent in Hong Kong is hindered by kids being steered towards only education from the age of 12, so for Mark Sutcliffe, the CEO of the Hong Kong FA, the Premier Skills and Creating Chances programmes are helping to encourage the game’s development.

"We are very lucky to be learning from the best in the world," Sutcliffe said. "It is great to have the top clubs from the Barclays Premier League out here to play for our fans but just as important is the development work done by programmes such as this."

King and Quinn kickabout

The kids had the privilege of King joining them for a kickabout before he awarded them a special Tottenham Hotspur Asia Tour T-shirt, which he took the time to sign, and a Tottenham Hotspur Foundation wristband.

"The Premier League and its clubs have been doing their bit but the buy-in from the locals has been superb"
Niall Quinn

"The enthusiasm of the kids to play and their work ethic was wonderful to see," King said. "It's great that we are able to give something back to the fans of the Premier League. Since I was a player I have seen the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation work very hard in inspiring people in the club's local community so I am pleased I have been able to come to Hong Kong and see it in action over here."

Quinn was also in awe to the attitude of all those involved and cheered by the seeds of development being put in place by the events.

"The Premier League and its clubs have been doing their bit but the buy-in from the locals has been superb," Quinn said. "I have enjoyed seeing their willingness to learn to develop coaching in a different, more professional way than before. That’s the lasting impression I have had.

"We are here for a tournament, essentially, but what we are also seeing in Po Kong is that we are allowing people the ability to coach in the different areas of Hong Kong and so are leaving behind something really worthwhile. It has been a pleasure to witness it."

For more pictures from the event see our gallery on Facebook here.

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