Friday, 10 June 2011
All White Giving Something Back
By HINERANGI VAIMOSO
All Whites winger Leo Bertos was keen to step in when he heard about a plan to promote football among Maori and Pacific Island children. And that's what he was doing in south Auckland last week – kicking about with some football-crazed kids from Kelvin Road Primary School in Papakura.
Bertos was encouraged to join the Coerver Coaching New Zealand development programme by technical director and head coach Phil Parker who was staying in the same camp as the All Whites during the FIFA Football World Cup in South Africa last year.
"I caught up with Phil after the tournament and got a chance to find out what this was all about. As soon as he explained it to me, I was hooked," Bertos says.
"It was the right time for me to think about giving something back to the community and what Phil's doing is something I wanted to be a part of." Bertos signed a contract with Coerver Coaching's official partner adidas last year and is now the academy's ambassador.
While he can't be at all the training sessions Phil holds throughout south Auckland, he holds sessions in Papatoetoe and Mangere. The kids were certainly lapping up what time they did have with the international star.
"A lot of the kids actually recognise me and they look up to me which is great so it's nice for them to be close," Bertos says. "This kind of thing makes it a bit more real for them and for me too. I had a coach that did something similar with the same training principles and methods that Phil is using and I truly believe that if it wasn't for that, I wouldn't have got to where I am today. This is where it all starts."
Parker, a former national football rep, says selling the sport to Maori and Pacific Island children is not difficult. "It's very easy because it's still quite a unique sport to them. It's not a mainstream sport for Maori and Pacific Island kids but even the kids you would least expect are really loving it."
Parker coaches about 35 children at Kelvin Rd Primary School and after two training sessions during the week the kids put their skills into practice playing for local football clubs at the weekend. Parker says as well as teaching the children the fundamentals of good ball skills and sportsmanship, the programme helps build relationships between the community and local clubs.