By the title ‘Arsenal in the Community’, it would be a natural assumption to think that the Club’s activities are restricted to the local area surrounding Arsenal Football Club and Emirates Stadium. However, Arsenal has expanded and established working groups all over the world.
Arsenal has community coaching links with many countries including, South Africa, Ukraine, Nigeria, Israel, Cyprus, Bosnia, Egypt and Thailand, assisting in grassroots coaching programmes in each territory.
The purpose of these visits is to train young volunteers how to coach and organise football so there is an element of sustainability when Arsenal in the Community returns home and the young coaches will continue to train ‘the Arsenal way’ in their own communities. During the visits, Arsenal provides coaching support and also organises a tournament for local children at the end of the week.
The coaching model is unique to Arsenal in the Community and is followed in the majority of the countries which the Club visit. An alternative model involves community coaches running Arsenal's long standing and popular ‘Soccer Schools’ for local children.
The Arsenal Gap Year programme has ensured the work of Arsenal in the Community’s initiatives overseas is sustained. Whilst many coach on Arsenal Soccer Schools abroad, many have visited and trained local young people on Arsenal in the Community’s projects overseas.
AIMS OF ARSENAL ABROAD IN THE COMMUNITY
- To teach young members of the community how to coach football
- Raise the self-esteem of local people
- General confidence building of children
- To promote fair play and good sportsmanship
- Football skills development for local children
- To provide a morale boosting effect on the local community
- To give young people tournament-specific and general organisation skills
- To introduce and improve the English language of participants
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Since 1998, Arsenal in the Community coaches have visited Soweto three times to deliver coaching courses to develop coaching programmes in the area. The project was subsequently expanded with coaches not only working in Soweto but also the township of Alexandra. 200 were registered for the Arsenal sessions and more than 400 children turned up every day. Some walked several hours to get to and from the training.
In November 2002, three Arsenal in the Community coaches visited Nigeria for the first time, offering support and advice to both local coaches and youngsters living in the rural area surrounding Port Harcourt. At that time there was no organised community football taking place in the entire country of Nigeria, with children generally learning their skills by playing on the streets.
In 1998, life-long Arsenal supporter, George Mills, who has been providing aid to deprived areas of eastern Europe for many years, asked Arsenal in the Community scheme to help lift the spirits of Chernigov, a city in the east of Ukraine with which he had forged strong links. 99 out of every 100 children in the area are ill from the aftermath of Chernobyl.
Arsenal has visited Chernigov on six occasions to deliver football coaching to young children and coaches and have made donations of clothing, kits and gifts.
Arsenal in the Community has a long-term involvement in Israel, helping to promote better relations between jewish and Arab children through football with the “Arsenal in the Galilee” project. Arsenal in the Community has launched a series of community programmes that now involve 12 settlements in northern Israel. Former Arsenal youth team and reserves player Danny Rebuck runs football programmes and teaches volunteers to become coaches, using the Arsenal Soccer School coaching modules. Arsenal in the Community have recruited gap year students to coach in the mixed Jewish-Arab town of Acco. Over 300 children are now taking part in the programme.
This was Arsenal in the Community’s very first venture abroad in 1995, when the Club visited the British Forces bases in Dhekalia and Episkopi on the island of Cyprus. The Club teamed up with the forces’ youth services to deliver soccer schools to the children of parents serving in the Armed Forces based in Cyprus.
2003 was Arsenal’s ninth trip to the island which now includes a third venue, the Royal Air Force Base at Akrotiro.
Over recent years the Cyprus project has been expanded to include children from local communities, as well as the children of Armed Forces personnel based on the island.
Since 2001, The New Cairo British International School has hosted Arsenal Soccer Schools to deliver coaching development courses once a year to children from the local community. Through the Club’s links with the local authorities in Cairo, the Arsenal programme offers the opportunity for the city’s orphans and homeless children to take part in Arsenal in the Community's football activities.
In 1996, a visit to Bosnia was organised to help give local children much needed diversion from the fighting and unrest which they had experienced. A three day football development programme was delivered to the children and subsequently, working with Spirit of Soccer, the Club assisted in a campaign to promote land mine awareness through football.
Working alongside the University of Johannesburg, two Arsenal Gap Year participants visited Mozambique in 2008 and 2009 to teach football, English and personal development skills to empower local team Manica’s coaches and players. The Arsenal Charitable Trust also made a donation to the team to help renovate the team’s club house, with which the gap year students helped refurbish.
With the help of registered charity, Trusts for African Schools, during Arsenal in the Community’s 25th year, the department is sending two Gap Year volunteers to coach football and offer support as English assistants in local schools.