The trip served to highlight the community outreach work that the British Council, in tandem with the Premier League, is undertaking in Brazil (and the associated English language support that Premier Skills can deliver).
The students – all absolute beginners in terms of English ability – were selected to attended the trip based on good behaviour and attendance at school. They are part of a group of more than 200 young people who engage with the Premier Skills Esporte Seguro (Safe Sport) project in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which teaches citizenship skills and football.
“We wanted to have English classes in the beginning [as part of the project] but we needed to set up the project first,” said Ana Paula Bessa, the British Council projects manager in Brazil. “Even though the [participants] learn English in school they don’t have any level,” she added. “It’s a challenge to have suitable material to start getting them in touch with the language.”
It features videos of football players, worksheets for teachers, and wider football-related content
The English lesson utilised the resources offered on the British Council’s Premier Skills website which was launched in 2008. It is a global resource and features videos of football players, worksheets for teachers, and other wider football-related content, with interactive features.
As it is in early stages, the actual Premier Skills programme in Brazil is focused on developing a reputation in the community before it introduces English courses.
Citizenship is also an important factor in the programme. “We want to show [the participants] they need to be active members in the community,” said Bessa. “We insisted we wouldn’t do just football [training] because there are a lot of those in Brazil. We wanted [young people] to learn something as well.”
Sessions in Brazil started in December and organisers say they have already seen a big impact. “We have children who stopped doing drugs because of the programme,” commented Orlando Dato, the programme’s voluntary head coach and father of one of the youth participants.
“We have children who stopped doing drugs because of the programme”
Leandro da Silva, one of the youths who came to London, said, “I have a dream of a becoming a professional football player. This project will help me a lot but not only with that. It helps me improve my communication skills, make friends and also to help me become a better citizen.”
Similar programmes to Premier Skills Esporte Seguro are also in place in Indonesia and India.