In its third year, AP Honda’s Red Champion, a project that brought local schoolboys to train at English Premier League clubs Liverpool and Manchester United, took another group of youngsters to train at the famous football academies.
Out of the 92 participating schools from all over the country, the best five teams — Patongpratankiriwat, Surasakmontri, Lansak Wittaya, Prasart Wittayakarn and Wachirawit Mathayom schools — were selected to fly to Liverpool and Manchester for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
They were given a chance to realise their dreams of training at some of the world’s top-class football academies, watching their heroes in the flesh and meeting up with the legendary Ian Rush who presented them with the certificates at Anfield — providing them a unique football experience.
Suchart Arunsaengroj, director of AP Honda, distributor of Honda motorcycle in Thailand, explained the reason why the company has been sponsoring the project for three years and will continue to do so.
“We are proud to continue supporting the dreams of young students through this incredible experience,” said Suchart.
“We hope this project can encourage kids in Thailand to see the important of basic skills training in football. They will see how young players are nurtured and developed at the academies and how they develop into professional players.
AP Honda vice president, Dr Annop Pornprapa added: “We also hope they can pass on the experience to younger students at their schools, their friends and create more interests for our programme in the future.”
The five schools were split into two groups. Two schools (Prasart Wittayakarn and Wachirawit Mathayom) trained at Liverpool Academy while the other three (Patongpratankiriwat, Surasakmontri and Lansak Wittaya) were in Manchester for five days.
At Liverpool Academy, coach Ben Parsonage put the students through their paces and he shared his thoughts on them after the first session.
“Obviously today it’s about them getting used to the climate, the surroundings, and overcoming the language barrier,” said Parsonage.
“It’s obviously an opportunity of a lifetime for all of them. They may not appreciate it now but when they’re older and look back on the experience they will realize how important it [this training] is.”
The other group was with United’s academy coaches at Salford Red Devils ground. The kids were again put through their paces by the coaches, with the focus on basic skills.
Prior to their training, the students were given a treat as they watched the Premier League match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford while the other group watched the Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur game at Anfield.
In all it was a memorable trip for the students as one of the journalists put it: “When we were kids, getting to see Suphachalasai [then national stadium] didn’t even happen for us. These boys get to travel to England to watch a Premier League game and train at the clubs. Lucky kids indeed!”