Tottenham Hotspur trainers in Moscow

For four days in June, two trainers from Tottenham Hotspur soccer team visited the International School of Moscow to coach children in professional football skills.

When I visited the school on the last day of training and saw the children charging about at high speed on the school’s playing field, it was completely clear that learning the art of football can be something totally enjoyable. The children were split up into small teams, identified by different colour football shirts. Miles Leighton, the International head Coach at Tottenham Hotspurs, shouted: “take the ball.” Would-be world champion inside rights, centre forwards or goalies scrambled into position for the game to begin. The ball often left the pitch, but it didn’t matter, what was important was keeping control, if only for a few seconds. Action was intense, whilst one team concentrated on tactics, the other played an improvised match, all under the watchful eyes of parents and teachers who also seemed to be enjoying themselves seeing their charges so completely absorbed in playing a sport that had suddenly become real fun.

Paul Seedhouse, the headmaster commented: “The biggest thing is expertise for the school. I think our PT teachers do a great job, but to bring a coaching team out from the UK means top quality training. It’s really exciting for the kids. I’ve been talking to parents this morning, they’ve been saying that their children have been getting up early, they’ve been running to school, the level of enthusiasm has been huge. It’s had a very positive impact on them. The parents have already asked me if we’re going to do this again next year, so this will probably be an annual thing. We try to offer a wide range of sports in the school, but with football being a world sport and I think with the Euro Championships coming up, this is the one that has caught the children’s imagination.”

But the training does not only cover pro-footwork. Miles Leighton explained: “We have a holistic approach. At the end of today’s session for example, the coaches will advise the children on nutrition. It’s not just about football, it’s about personal discipline, how to look after themselves and so on.” So does this mean no more MacDonalds?, I asked, perplexed as to how any child in the city of Moscow, or anywhere for that matter, is going to survive without junk food for longer than about 12 hours. “Yes, we try to explain to them that if you want to be fit, really fit, you have to look after yourself.” We shall see. But one thing is for certain, the look of concentration, pride and joy on the children’s faces was unmistakable.