By Hailey Chung
Like many organisations serving the poor, Dream Village Football Academy (DVFA) helps alleviate youth poverty by providing survival resources. But DVFA is doing things a bit differently – the academy works to take underprivileged youth out of their slums through football.
There are many social outreach programmes to the needy. For Samuel Siew, DVFA’s pioneer head coach, football is his calling and the football pitch is his mission field.
“For most Christians, Sunday is their church day. For me, Saturday football training is my church day. The football field is where the youth come to receive encouragement and be loved,” Siew said.
DVFA, a social enterprise of Asian Youth Ambassador*, is all about helping the youth break free from the circumstances that have been holding them back. The multi-racial academy aims to inspire hope in and open doors of opportunities for the youth to achieve their football dreams. (*A non-profit youth organisation set up by Acts Church, Subang Jaya.)
Currently, DVFA has 150 students aged between four and 16. Of these, 100 are paying students and their fees help support the other 50 disadvantaged children and youth from Angsana low-cost flats in Subang and Kota Kemuning Promise Home (for orang asli children).
It is sheer joy watching the multi-racial students from the “have” and “have-not” background slugging it out on the football pitch week after week. Siew said the strategy to have the can-afford-to-pay students support those who can’t pay has gone beyond just the finances.
“The community students (those who can’t pay) are natural drivers during the football practices as they inspire the well-to-do students with their passion. In pairing these two groups of students, they not only learn about football skills but about each other’s lives. This creates a bridge between the rich and the poor,” Siew explained.
Furthermore, on the field, the students – whether rich or poor and whatever their skin colour – are all equal with equal opportunities to prove their mettle.
Siew maintained that as an academy, DVFA is not competitive and eager for tournaments. “We are an academy that nurtures the dreams of our young players. Our goal is to help them become their personal best.”
“Personal best” goes beyond football; it includes the students’ character. Hence, DVFA’s curriculum includes gotong-royong activities in rural areas to teach the students that they, whether rich or poor, can contribute to society.
In addition, the students also learn to care for one another, especially the “special” students who are physically challenged. “We have one autistic and three disabled students who come to the academy. We do not reject them, and I think that message of hope has brought smiles to their parents and the other parents,” Siew said.
Like any football academy, Siew dreams of DVFA producing top players but more than that, he hopes DVFA will be a beacon that shines in the “spirit of excellence that God has given”.
“I am driven by a different type of spirit; I want to do well for God,” he confessed. “And to do well for God in this sports ministry is to do your work so well that even non-Christians will actually pay for your good work.
“This is a powerful way to earn their respect. They need to believe in what you believe, rather than what you tell them to believe,” he said.
Ultimately, it’s about being a light among the students and their families, not just alleviating poverty and instilling good values. Siew feels he’s like a little light that radiates the life-giving Light. “I hang out with the students and I will be the light among them. I will show them kindness and the love of Christ through my actions and words.”
KICKING OFF THE DREAM
DVFA started in 2012 after Siew was inspired by Pastor Kenneth Chin, senior pastor of Acts Church, who had started Asian Youth Ambassador to reach out to the youth.
“He knew I was passionate about football, so we sat down one day and agreed to create a platform to reach young people through football.”
The first two years of DVFA were frustrating ones for Siew as he couldn’t seem to get the academy kicking. He was busy with the administration and web design, and far from the green grass that he signed up for.
At the same time, the greener grass around him was tempting him to leave his dream of establishing the academy. “I was looking left and right. My friends were earning good money. I was tempted to give up and become a web designer,” he recalled.
Then, Siew encountered Fabio, a missionary from Brazil who was in Malaysia for a year. Fabio went into the rural areas and reached out to the folks there through football. It reignited Siew’s passion as he learned how to use football as a ministry instead of focusing on the sport itself.
“Skill is the bridge. I have the football skills but without the passion for people, there is no point. Passion for people was the kingdom principle that was lacking thus far,” he said. With this a-ha realisation, Siew put the academy in order and it began to grow.
As DVFA blossomed, Siew was assured of God’s plan for his life. “I’ve always wanted to be a professional player but coaching is my calling.”
He added that being a pioneer coach for the academy was more satisfying that his initial dream as he is helping the youth realise their dreams. “There’s a saying that what goes up must come down. When our praises to God go up, His blessings come down,” Siew concluded.
Editor’s note: Siew recently received and subsequently accepted an offer to join the Football Association of Malaysia as the Head of Grassroots overseeing the country’s 6- to 12-year-old players. DVFA has appointed Albert Low as the new Academy Manger.
Asian Beacon: Apr – Jun 2018 (Vol 50 #2, p16-17)