Growing League of Ace Footballers
2011 saw the successful implementation of ACE Football League (A.C.E stands for Aspiring towards Character Excellence) – a youth developmental and social work intervention pilot programme for youths aged 12-17, using football as a medium. Four youth teams were formed and they played football matches in a league spanning five months.
During this period, social workers intervened in the players’ lives by instilling positive character and imparting life skills. This was to help them stay clear of delinquency and to give them a sense of purpose. The players found meaning and a sense of affiliation to their teams.
This in turn enabled them to positively inspire and influence each other, and learn the importance of character over skills. As the players started to talk about the unique football league with their friends, neighbours and siblings, the number of participants also grew.
One such example involved a trio of brothers, Su, So and Sa, aged 16, 15 and 12, who joined the league one after another. Even though Sa was only a pre-teen, his involvement was an opportunity for preventative work. Another example was Yee, aged 16, who was involved in fights and petty crimes until he was given the captain’s armband. It gave him a sense of responsibility, confidence and purpose beyond his delinquent behaviour. He began inspiring his young players towards positive behaviour and guiding them in football skills.
The success of the ACE Football League in 2011 was given a boost with official funding from UBS AG in the first quarter of 2012. Their sponsorship enabled ACE Football League to expand to a total of 10 teams, with four teams coming from other youth agencies in Singapore. The result was a collaborative and synergistic partnership with four voluntary welfare organisations: Youth Infinity (AMK FSC), YouthReach (Boys’ Town), Youth Guidance and Crossroads Youth Centre (Care Corner FSC). We were able to discuss and exchange new ideas and share resources which expanded the programme even further.