Written by Premier Skills Malaysia Team

Premier Skills is an international partnership between the Premier League and the British Council. It uses UK’s biggest export, football, for community development. Premier Skills Malaysia was launched in 2009 to train community coaches in four phases and as a result, we have nurtured 5 Level 1 Coach Educators who are qualified to conduct Premier Skills’ training courses to develop community coaches.  To date, more than 200 community coaches have been trained.

2016 marks the end of Premier Skills Malaysia’s 7-year community training programme. In the last two years upon successfully training local Coach Educators, we wanted to extend our reach and impact by focusing on reaching marginalised groups such as women and rural communities. We kicked off at the end of 2014 with a rural community programme with the indigenous community of Pos Tenau in Perak. It was the first time that the Premier Skills team along with the Coach Educators travelled into a rural area and it was an exhilarating experience indeed! 

The first all-women community coaching course that we did was in March 2015, in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. We engaged with Zhang Hong, who is a national football coach for girls U14 and U16. We trained 22 women coaches with backgrounds ranging from ex-national football players, teachers and even housewives! This was the first time we realised that women and girls do have the passion for football, and they just need a little encouragement and a platform to play safely, as one of the deterrents to playing football is the perception that it is a violent game.

The next community programme we ran was at IGB International School, Sg. Buloh. The programme took place in partnership with Sunarize Academy, a football events organising company that helped secure the venue.

Participants were sourced from local communities around the Sg. Buloh area. Sg. Buloh’s residents are made up of diverse economic backgrounds. To celebrate inclusiveness, we reached out to local village communities as well as indigenous communities. In addition to that, we also allocated space for the urban participants to apply. In total we trained 23 new community coaches who became key community change-makers. 

Following the success of IGB’s programme, we carried out another all-women’s Premier Skills training in partnership with Sunway University in our efforts to increase the number of women coaches. The programme had 21 participants with varying knowledge on football and community coaching, some even with zero knowledge but with keen interest and enthusiasm. Our aim was to increase awareness of football as community development amongst women and it is evident that we achieved this aim as the participants quickly became active supporters of this course. As a result of this programme, some of the women participants have started their own community projects and some joined existing community teams. 

After reaching out to women participants, we looked towards engaging with marginalised communities at the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. With support from MySkills Foundation, an organisation that deals with youths-at-risk we identified Klang as a potential area to work in. Targeting mainly individuals from the low-income Tamil community, the programme was held at SJK (T) Ladang Highlands. Although we only managed 17 participants, this small group of individuals dealt with serious issues within their community and understood the important impact football can have in changing the lives of some of the youths they work with. 

The start of 2016 saw us making our presence known in Kuching, Sarawak. Flying across the sea to East Malaysia, the programme was led by 3 Coach Educators. Having had no on the ground presence before, we relied on the support of church groups, NGOs and school networks to gain potential participants. In the end the numbers were small – 12 participants in total, but the participants personified the statement that quality really is superior over quantity. After the Premier Skills programme ended, they continued their efforts by joining forces and reaching out to different communities such as the Salvation Army Boys Home. They were even successful in utilising Premier Skills English as part of their community outreach work. 

The final Premier Skills training happened back in Peninsular Malaysia. Held in Cyberjaya, there were 21 participants, 10 women and 11 men – the first time for us to have been able to get a good mix of genders. Due to this gender balance we were able to see how men and women work together for a shared purpose, especially because football has been such a male-dominated sport. We were able to successfully break this gender divide and through the final day football carnival we saw that the participants put into practice what they learnt and managed to achieve what they aspired to.

It is evident from the above that from 2014 – 2016 was an exceptionally busy year for Premier Skills Malaysia. We achieved our targets of reaching out to women, rural and marginalised communities and that is a success on our part. We have also seen community coaches supporting each other and co-coaching with established community groups to build more experience and confidence, especially for the women coaches who are now taking part actively in football. The Sunway women’s group have formed their own little community and play indoor football together on a weekly basis. It is a bittersweet moment for us as it does mark an end of the community training programme, however, we are confident that we have left a lasting legacy of quality community coaches to continue the good work that they do on the ground, spreading the love of football to and from the grassroots. Last but not least, the Premier Skills programme could not have been successful without the support from the Coach Educators; Patrick Loo, Samuel Siew, Kelvin Chee, Hee Chun Keet and Dawinder Randhawa who not only ran the training courses, but also connected us to some of the partners mentioned above, helped identify communities to reach out to as well as maintaining contact and continuing the relationship with the community coaches.