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Premier Skills: Playing for the Next Generation

[caption id="attachment_15687" align="alignnone" width="300"]South sudanese have come together despite the political divide happening in their country South sudanese have come together despite the political divide happening in their country[/caption]

“Playing for the next generation,” the words of Chief John Mayong Morangul at the Premier Skills finals match, as part of a British Council programme that brought together children from Khartoum-based South Sudanese IDP (internally displaced persons) camps. The event held on March 21st 2014 at Family Club in Khartoum 3, marked the climax of a two-week initiative within the already successful long-running Premier Skills project.

[caption id="attachment_15671" align="alignnone" width="300"]Camps' leaders participating  in the events Camps' leaders participating in the events[/caption]

This two-week long initiative from March 08th to 21st this time recruited a cohort of younger players, aged 9-14 years old of South Sudanese origin based in IDP camps around Khartoum. Teams were established at each camp and invited for friendlies before the qualifiers’ tournaments to play for the Winners’ Cup.

[caption id="attachment_15679" align="alignnone" width="300"]The moment of joy and celebration Photo by Mohamed Noureldin The moment of joy and celebration
Photo by Mohamed Noureldin[/caption]

In the final matches for the Cups of Children and Youth of South Sudan Jabarona camp managed to beat Al-Jabal camp in the final of children by a penalty shoot-out (4 to 3). In the final of youth, Jabarona camp played against Al-Shajarah camp and managed a one-zero win, hence becoming the winner of the cup. In the friendly matches between Sudan and South Sudan, South Sudan’s children’s team managed to beat Sudan’s team. However in the second match of youth from the two countries, the team of Sudan managed to beat the South Sudanese team to win the cup and medals.

[caption id="attachment_15685" align="alignnone" width="300"]Sudan winning team Sudan winning team[/caption]

In attendance at the event were semi-finalists from 12 IDP camps around Khartoum and seven Chiefs representing these camps, as well as the proud parents, siblings and guests of the young players. Friends of the British council and media colleagues also turned out from across Sudanese radio, TV and newspapers. An estimated total of 1,500 participants took part through the course of the two weeks, the majority of whom were in attendance on the pitch at the final.

“The purpose of the British Council is to connect people in the UK to people in other countries and football is a great way to do that. We are proud of Premier Skills and our partnership with the Premier League. Through it we empower promising young coaches to deliver a lasting legacy in their communities. This report shows just how successful Premier Skills can be, bringing together young people from disadvantaged communities to get to know and learn from each other in a culturally familiar environment, building sustainable friendships and relationships, and above all, trust” .Charles Nuttall OBE , Director British Council , Sudan

British Council Programme Manager, Abuhanifa Eltayeb was responsible for leading the initiative, he was pleased to relate “ the level of interaction and dialogue which has been continuing for two weeks between the kids, coaches, camp leaders and camp   inhabitants has fostered excellent social and personal relations.” This was evident on the pitch, as confirmed by the programme manager who explained “the joy, jubilation, happiness and high level of self-esteem today mirrors the atmosphere at each IDP camp throughout the qualifiers tournaments.

The series of community lectures provided within the Premier Skills programme touched on the most pressing issues and service needs for children of this displaced ethnic minority, emphasising peace, education, and cultural mediation through sport.

Those who attended the Sudan/South Sudan matches felt the power of sport in bringing people together and promoting people to people relations in general. Ahmed Elmahdi, Khartoum-resident and guest at the finals match captured the mood, “seeing the kids come together like this reminds you how arbitrary misplaced tribal frictions can sometimes be - that’s the magic of sport.”

Parent Lawrence Mariano Bagari is originally from Wau in Bahr Al Ghazal, South Sudan. He came in support of his two young boys, a 10-year-old and 14-year-old playing in the Junior and Senior semi-finals matches, respectively. He was happy for the opportunity his children were enjoying, “we support our children in this match as we support them in their lives, to be strong, courageous and play well.”

Chief Robert Tawfi represents Camps Soba/Kongor and also sits on the council of IDP Camp Chiefs that represent the 10 states of South Sudan, “our biggest problem is the lack of education for these kids; many are too old for the very basic education offered within the camps and cannot afford the fees for schools outside the camp.” In response to this, the IDP camp council of South Sudanese elders established a school for all children aged between 5 - 12 years, which is staffed by 9 teachers - half of whom are university graduates - and which currently has 350 students, mostly from Camps Soba/Kongor and Moraba’ 11. Another supporter, Chief Attem Deng Maw Alew, Alshajarah Camp, warns “without schooling, many of these kids will resort to raiding dump sites for plastic bags to sell to make some kind of living, or more worryingly turn to petty crime.”

The Premier Skills project includes plans for the sustainability of the work begun over the two weeks. As Programme Manager Abuhanifa Eltayeb illustrates, “Individual camp leaders have been entrusted to continue running these football activities regularly. We have also trained community coaches who will be working with some of the camps to provide support for the new coaches and to help them navigate this type of social work.”

A resounding message of thanks from one camp elder, “to our scattered children, this opportunity will keep them from the streets and the dangers they face there and bring them back into our community, to learn from their elders and play with their brothers and sisters.”

written by Eva Kheir