This past Sunday saw participants from Sheffield United Community Foundation’s Street Soccer Academy play in the Football For Good Trophy at West Ham United’s London Stadium.
The five-a-side tournament was held on Sunday, 19 November, to mark the inaugural Football For Good Day – a Commonwealth-wide celebration of the sport’s ability to change lives for the better.
The players were 18 to 30-year olds, who were homeless or at risk of homelessness by not being in education, employment or training, and they represented the professional football club community organisation where they recently completed a Street Soccer Academy course.
The ten-week personal development course, devised by the Street Soccer Foundation, uses football as a catalyst to engage participants in positive mindset training, mentoring support, football coaching and employability workshops.
Teams from ten Street Soccer Academies took part in the Football For Good Trophy, with group stage and semi-final matches held on the London Stadium’s Community Pitch, before the two finalist teams took to the turf of the stadium’s main pitch to play the final under the floodlights.
In the group stages, our Foundation team beat Brentford Community Sports Trust 1-0, drew 2-2 with Hull City’s Tigers Trust and 0-0 with Sunderland AFC’s Foundation of Light, and lost 6-0 to Everton in the Community. They finished third in their group with five points from four games.
Chelsea FC Foundation lifted the trophy following a 3-1 victory over Salford City’s Foundation 92 in the final.
Keith Mabbutt, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Street Soccer Foundation, said: “This very first Football For Good Day has achieved precisely what we set out to showcase. It has been a day where we have seen young people gather from literally all over the world, interacting together and encouraging everyone else and championing each other’s endeavours.
“While there could only be one winning team on the pitch, everyone playing had already won by committing to the Street Soccer Academy programme.
“Some of those playing have been through very difficult situations in their lives, but they’ve kept coming back week after week to their academy and showed that desire to complete the course, and as such I’m proud and grateful that we’ve been able to provide them the opportunity to play at the iconic London Stadium on Football For Good Day as a reward for their fantastic endeavours.
“Our very first Street Soccer Academy was in partnership with the West Ham United Foundation back in 2015, so to hold this special inaugural event at the London Stadium has personal significance to us as a charity as well. And I’m thrilled we’ve delivered on a day that has unquestionably become a true platform to inspire, to encourage countries across the world to use the global number one sport as a true force for good.”
Stephen Yates, who played in the Sheffield United Community Foundation team, said: “I’ve built up a great relationship with my team-mates over the ten-week programme. The Street Soccer Academy has built up my confidence and given me better mental health. Also, because of the programme, I have quit smoking, which has had a huge benefit in my life.”
Nathan Pearson, a volunteer coach with the Foundation, said: “Coming on to volunteer after being a participant in the academy myself, I understand how motivating the football tournament at the London Stadium is. We’ve seen an incredible amount of determination and motivation from our participants.”
The Football For Good initiative is the brainchild of Keith Mabbutt and was launched by the Street Soccer Foundation earlier this year in support of the Commonwealth’s 2023 Year of Youth, which is celebrating 50 years of the Commonwealth Youth Programme.
Baroness Patricia Scotland, Secretary General of The Commonwealth, said: “Sport is one of the most dynamic and influential ways to allow our young people to enhance their health and opportunity, but also to learn about partnership, fairness, and bringing people together for peace. This is Football For Good.
“Football for peace and development, and the enhancement of unity across the Commonwealth.”
Layne Robinson, Head of Social Policy and Development at The Commonwealth Secretariat, added: “The Commonwealth chose Football For Good as a partner for the Year of Youth because this year, we are celebrating what young people can contribute in the world, and there’s no better thing to connect young people than sports.
“The top sport in the world is football, so it’s natural we would want to involve sports and football in our Year of Youth activities.”
The event was live streamed from the London Stadium to a global audience online and the coverage featured films from similar football events celebrating the sport’s positive impact in many of the other Commonwealth member countries.
The other teams that took part in the Football For Good Trophy were from Street Soccer Academies held at West Ham United Foundation, Chelsea FC Foundation, Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, Hull City’s Tigers Trust, Everton in the Community, Sunderland FC’s Foundation of Light, Leicester City in the Community, Liverpool’s LFC Foundation and Salford City’s Foundation 92.