How the Premier League’s lead international initiative is changing lives in Botswana
On Saturday, Botswana will continue their attempt to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations for only the second time in their history when they face Mali in the first leg of qualifying.
“The Zebras” may have never played in the FIFA World Cup but they have been on the rise in African football and were the first country to book a place in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
Aiming to stop them qualifying for the tournament in South Africa in January are a Mali side with a strong Premier League influence – Fulham’s Mahamadou Diarra and West Ham United’s Modibo Maiga are in the squad.
Botswanan football too is also feeling the benefit of the Premier League’s assistance with a scheme to ensure that the country’s improved elite ranking is replicated at grassroots level.
Premier Skills, an international partnership between the Premier League and the British Council, operates in 20 countries around the world and develops community coaches and referees so that they can pass on their knowledge and expertise to others.
The initiative has been going for five years, in which time more than 350,000 young people have benefited from the programme, while 1,500 community coaches and referees have been trained.
Botswana is one of the Premier Skills success stories and with the help and support of the Botswana Football Association, the programme has completed the final Phase Three where newly trained coaches who have come through the scheme begin to coach new trainees.
You can watch a video feature on how the programme has changed lives for Batswana (as people of Botswana are called) by clicking on the photo at the top of this page, and here, two Premier Skills coaches describe what impact the initiative has made on them.
What have you learnt from Premier Skills and how are you able to impart that knowledge to the community?
Fatima Sedimo: I have been involved with Premier Skills since 2009 and I have learnt a lot. As a teacher to the mentally challenged and the physically disabled I have learnt how to include life skills within training sessions. I have found it very easy, even with the most severely disabled children, because Premier Skills has taught me to work from simple to complex and how to use different equipment to suit different levels of learners.
Barobi Nwako: I have learnt that football is not just a game but a tool that we can all use to teach to the community. I have learnt to run community projects through football and to teach my players some lessons on life skills.
What do think of Premier Skills and how it is affecting the community?
Barobi Nwako: It has helped us a great deal. I have attended a few courses on coaching but on how to use football on the pitch . My eyes have been opened as Premier Skills has taught me how to use football to reach out to the community and to spread different messages on life skills through football.
What has it been like as a Premier Skills champion passing on the knowledge to new coaches?
Fatima Sedimo: It has been a wonderful experience. The response was positive. Botswana is a small country and we have few skilled coaches but Premier Skills is helping to increase that number which will help our communities back at home especially the ones in the remotest areas.
How do you think the children have responded?
Barobi Nwako: It’s wonderful, it’s awesome. It was our first time working with them but everything was superb I’d say. The first day is a challenge but I have enjoyed being with them.
What do you think of the Premier League and its involvement in communities like Botswana?
Fatima Sedimo: It is a wonderful because they have taught us many things and made us into coach educators. We are going to transfer the education they gave us to our brothers and sisters and there are courses going on around the country that after a year or so will be all around Botswana.
Is the Premier League popular in Botswana?
Barobi Nwako: Everyone is supporting Premier League teams. We support Arsenal, we support Chelsea, and we support Wolves. It’s amazing the way we support the Premier League teams.
Fatima Sedimo: Yes, because of Premier Skills it has become very popular, everyone asks about it and wants to become engaged in it. Botswana football is very proud of the Premier League.