After 13 years of funding and managing the Premier Skills project, a football coaching and refereeing programme, the British Council has finally divested, giving way to an independent alumni body to oversee the programme’s implementation in Nigeria.

The Acting Country Director, British Council, Nigeria, Chikedi Onyemerela, said the project had trained over 948 coaches and referees and reached over 22,000 young footballers, including women and children.

In his opening address at the closeout event, which was held in Lekki, Lagos, on Saturday, Onyemerela said the British Council had partnered with civil society organisations, government ministries, agencies and institutions in Nigeria to deliver high-quality programmes focused on strengthening public institutions, facilitating dialogue and highlighting key issues facing communities across the country,” he said.

“During the last 13 years of the project delivery in Lagos and Kano States, we successfully trained over 948 coaches and referees.

“These coaches and referees are now agents of change in their respective communities and are promoting inclusivity and community cohesion through the methodology of Premier Skills.

The Head, Cultural Engagement Marketing, Sub-Saharan Africa of the council, Edemekong Uyoh, said the idea behind the initiative was to instil life skills in coach educators and leverage the power of football as a tool for change, child protection and to help young people create different platforms where they can address different issues.

The Project Officer in charge of Premier Skills, Harirah Gurama, said the project was designed to improve the lives of the marginalised members of the society, especially young people, women and girls.

“We are able to work with community parties at the grassroots to train them to be able to improve the lives of the marginalised persons in society.

“We all know that it is at the grassroots level that we have bullying, drug abuse, and other societal ills. In 13 years, we have trained these coaches, not only to teach the young people football but to impact the lives of these young people with other life skills,” she said.

Thanking the council, a beneficiary, Coach Chinasa Ukandu, said being part of the Premier Skills programme was a great opportunity and experience filled with a lot of achievements for her.

In attendance were the Chairman, Lagos FA, Fouad Alade; representatives of the Lagos and Kano states ministries of education, amongst others.

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