Nobel Peace Prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has given her support to a programme organised by the Premier League and British Council to train local coaches in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).
The leader of the National League for Democracy party came to see the Premier Skills programme in action this week at Thuwanna Stadium's Youth Training Centre, in Yangon, the country’s biggest city and former capital.
Premier Skills uses football to help young people around the world, drawing upon the global appeal of the Premier League and its expertise in delivering community programmes in the UK, alongside the British Council’s global network and track record of delivery.
Through Premier Skills, young people, often including the most vulnerable in society, are given opportunities to become better integrated into their local communities, to develop their skills for employability and to raise their self-esteem.
The sessions in Yangon were jointly organised by the Premier League, British Council and the Mynamar Football Federation (MFF). The first phase of the project in Myanmar involves a week of community development coaching, led by Premier Skills head coach Jeremy Weeks and assisted by coaches from three Premier League clubs: Andrew Foster (Newcastle United), Matthew Hill (Stoke City), and Steve Eadon (Arsenal).
These four will share their experiences of leading community development projects in disadvantaged areas of the UK with 48 Burmese grassroots trainees from civil society networks such as Football United, and the MFF. The UK coaches will support the Burmese coaches to develop their own community football projects, something that Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed.
"Many of our young people face serious problems,” she said. “Premier Skills will help the most vulnerable, including those who may lack access to education, have a disability or be among our country’s many unemployed.
"Football, which is so popular among our young people, can provide the means to helping them confront these issues. I look forward to seeing the benefits of this innovative project in our most disadvantaged communities."
As of 2014, Premier Skills has trained 2,300 coaches and referees in 23 countries across Asia, Africa and the Americas. These people in turn have reached a further 500,000 young people. Premier Skills aims to train a further 3,000 coaches and referees and through them reach more than 300,000 young people.
"In a country with such an interest and passion for football and the Premier League, we are excited to be launching Premier Skills in Burma,” Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore said. "The Premier League and our clubs have a long-standing commitment to delivering outstanding community programmes in the UK and through our partnership with the British Council on Premier Skills, we now look to build on this by setting up similar projects around the world."
"Over the next two years a core group of local coach educators will be trained to take Premier Skills forward, passing on what they have learnt by training up yet more grassroots coaches, ensuring the project’s long-term sustainability in Myanmar.”
Kevin Mackenzie, the country director of British Council in Myanmar was delighted to be able to introduce Premier Skills to the country.
"There is a real passion for Premier League football here, and Premier Skills offers people the opportunity to use this enthusiasm in community development work across the country," he said.