The Arsenal Foundation

A year in the life of Coaching for Life

Per Mertesacker

It’s been nearly a year since our former captain and Arsenal Academy Manager Per Mertesacker launched the start of the groundbreaking Coaching for Life programme on a visit to the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. In that time, a huge amount of progress has been made.

Working as one team, Arsenal and Save the Children combined their expertise to create Coaching for Life, to improve the mental wellbeing of children affected by conflict and violence in the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan and the slum communities of Jakarta.

In November 2018, 12 Syrian refugee coaches were selected for a six-week training programme with Arsenal coaches to prepare them to deliver the Coaching for Life programme. Launched later that month, 300 children have already benefited from the weekly sessions, and over 400 more started in July 2019.

In February 2019, 35 coaches in Jakarta, Indonesia were selected to attend the same six-week course, and having launched in March, 240 children are approaching the end of the first 20-week cycle.

Although the children’s football skills will undoubtedly be improving, more importantly the programme is helping to provide the children with a strong sense of belonging, the ability to communicate and advocate for change in their local communities.

Emad, 12, is taking part in the programme in Jordan. He arrived in Za’atari camp in 2013 with his parents and three siblings, having fled Syria. Prior to joining Coaching for Life, Emad struggled to bear weight on his one leg due to a scar from his hip to his foot. He was reclusive and angry and would refuse to hang out with other children.


Emad’s parents told us that, “The programme has been extremely impactful on Emad’s recovery. The coaches were relentless and very encouraging, following up on him so regularly. We only hope he can continue participating in the sessions and getting better.”

As Per said on his visit last year, “The young people I met focus on what is happening now and this project will give them courage to cope with the struggles they face day to day, as well as providing them with the skills to have a better future.

“Whether you're a young person on one of our community programmes in north London or part of our academy, you're part of the Arsenal family. We take our responsibility as a club seriously.” 

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