Children from across the British Forces Cyprus community have been honing their football skills over the past week thanks to professional coaches from Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club.
In the WSBA, 60 children from both Akrotiri and Episkopi have benefited from the knowledge being passed down from four of the Premier League giants community coaches from Liverpool.
And in the ESBA, 32 children from Ayios Nikolaos and Dhekelia have been put through their paces by two of the community coaches from the Premier League’s, Wolves.
The outstanding initiatives form part of the BFC Youth Service programme in both the WSBA and the ESBA for the Easter period and the visit of such high-profile football coaches has proved a huge success at both ends of the island.
Dee Makin, the Community and Youth Worker in Akrotiri explained: “We approached Liverpool Football Club about three months ago to see if we could make it happen and they were very keen immediately".
“They are currently at the beginning of a project to build a centre in the city to help military personnel recovering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and in exchange for their services we will be making a charitable donation to help them build such a worthwhile facility".
“I am now hoping that we can make this an annual occurrence because it has proved a huge hit with the children. We have youngsters aged eight, all the way up to 16, all with very different footballing levels but every single one of them seems to be having a great time and learning and that is what it’s all about. There is a great buzz about the place and a lot of them are also Liverpool fans which obviously helps.”
Forbes Duff, one of the community coaches, was equally enthusiastic about the soccer school: “When we were asked to get involved we were very keen because we are obviously trying to do more with the Forces and that is why we are involved in building the PTSD facility in the city. The reaction we have received from the kids has been fantastic, they are so keen to learn and listen to what we have to say and I would love for us to do this for a few days every year.”
During their time on island, the coaches have also enjoyed the chance to mix with the Forces and the community which was a new experience for them.
“It has been fantastic to be honest and we have had a great time. There were lots of Newcastle fans around when were watching Liverpool play them so we did get a bit of stick when we lost but it was all in very good humour. In all honesty, it has been a humbling experience too, because we know that these are people who put their lives on the line for us and we have so much respect for them.”
There was a similar message of enthusiasm coming from the ESBA, where Jean Hartshorne, the Community and Youth Worker for Dhekelia, played a vital role in getting Wolves to visit and train the children.
“It has been absolutely brilliant to get them over here and it has been a huge success. Matt Voorbach, who is my equivalent in Ay Nik, was in Germany when Wolves went out there to do some training and as I am a Wolves fan, we decided to see if they would be prepared to come to Cyprus and do it here and thankfully they said yes".
“It is part of our curriculum and welfare package to offer Easter activities over the holiday so we are thrilled that it has all come off. We have children aged seven to 17 taking part over the five days and they are having a great time. The coaches are so supportive of the kids, regardless of their level of ability or club loyalty and that is so good to see.”
Kevin Wilson, one of the two Wolves community coaches giving up their time for free revealed that the club were always keen to get involved with the service community all over the world: “We have done this sort of course in Germany before and we have done some coaching at RAF Cosford back in the UK, so we were delighted to be invited to Cyprus this time to do it here".
“The children have been brilliant, so enthusiastic and the hosting and support we have been given during our stay here has also been excellent. Our coaching is all about improving the standard of football but also about having a lot of fun whilst doing it and after spending time with the children I am certain we have achieved both of those targets. I hope we can come back again next year to do it again.”