With the end of the summer holidays approaching, Street Soccer London are proud to look back on a valuable few months for our players in tournaments across London.
Working with coaches Matthew and Yasin, a core group of talented players have helped Street Soccer build a positive environment across various competitions.
The second weekend of July was a big weekend for football, not just at Wembley but also for Street Soccer as we had squads competing at both the Football for Unity tournament and the 32 Boro Cup on the 10th and 11th July, respectively.
The Football for Unity tournament was delivered by partners at Street Child United and UEFA Foundation to celebrate the power of sport as part of the EURO 2020 legacy programme. Playing in the five-a-side tournament against teams from club foundations such as Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Fulham and Watford, our boys held their own as they finished top of the group but suffered a semi final defeat to Everton. This event was a great day for our players and staff as they engaged in workshops throughout as well as enjoying the experience of playing together as Team Street Soccer for the first time.
The following day was highly anticipated as the Street Soccer squad travelled to Hackney to compete as Merton borough at the 32 Boro Cup. The lead up to this tournament involved two trial days, three training sessions followed by two workshops with the players. All of this contributed to some fantastic team morale on the day, with the team competing in a 11-a-side group stage and knockout format. After narrowly missing out on qualification to the ‘Champions League’ knockouts, the lads qualified for the ‘Europa League’ where a penalty shootout defeat meant they exited in the round of 16.
Coach on the day, Yasin, highlighted the exemplary conduct from the players throughout:
“We were proud of the way the boys conducted themselves on the day and proud of the performance they put in. We’re a new team who haven’t played together much and we came together, gave our best, competed and that is all we can ask for.”
There was silverware at the next tournament, run by our partners at FAST. The small sided competition at Powerleague Nine Elms on August 9th was a successful day for Street Soccer teams, with sides in both age groups lifting the ‘Champions League’ winners trophy. With SSL entering four teams across the 11-15 and 16-18 age groups, the boys performed brilliantly to win top prize in both. Our female team were also successful, winning their event in style.
Our final event of the summer was on site at the Black Prince Trust in the Lambeth World Cup. Run by our friends at the Fulham Foundation, the boys suffered penalty heart-ache again in the final. The five-a-side tournament was a fantastic experience for our young squad, competing against all the foundations and charities in and around Lambeth.
Street Soccer’s Matthew empahsised that this summer’s events have been invaluable to a lot of our players, with many of them now involved in more regular volunteering roles. Looking ahead to next summer, Matthew stressed that Street Soccer will be looking to invest more time in to preparation for future tournaments, highlighting the success of multiple workshops completed on site.
“It has been quite clear that a lot of our players are now responding to our ethos and how to conduct themselves on and off the pitch. This is really important to us and we look forward to ensuring that continues for the next crop of players in 2022.”
To find out more about getting involved with our sessions, head to our play section.
Passionate about helping others, Matthew joined Street Soccer with an impressive coaching portfolio, quickly becoming a friendly face for players across our London sites.
Previously employed by Crystal Palace as a performance coach, Matthew worked closely with a variety of age groups, both male and female, to ensure that the Eagles were producing top talent across the academy and first team. Matthew points to his time with the club’s first team as a great learning experience, where he specialised in data analysis and opponent analysis to help advise the Premier League coaching staff.
The experience in that environment has given Matthew a great insight in to the key factors in developing young talent and the dynamics which are important in creating a positive atmosphere for players. Now in his fifth month at Street Soccer, Matthew is responsible for all football activities such as the delivery of tournaments and sessions across multiple sites.
“I want the players to know the skills and attributes that they learn through football can be transferrable into everyday life. I like to use communication as the best example of this, we try and show the players that building that communication with players and staff can help them on their journey moving forward.”
Matthew highlights that despite his on-pitch influence with the players, he enjoys building relationships with them off the park. Looking to pass on his knowledge, the Street Soccer coach emphasised that a lot of the younger boys are always looking to learn about the game and where they can improve.
Street Soccer maintain a player first ethos and this has been something that Matthew has ensured is clear in his coaching. As lead coach for their first 11-a-side tournament together at the 32 Boro Cup, Matthew said; “My favourite memory so far has to be the training and workshops leading up the 32 Boro Cup, the excitement around the team was brilliant. Getting the players together and to bond as a team was a special moment. It was great to see them all making new friends and building new relationship with other players.”
Former Team England player Tyra Mills urges Street Soccer London players to grasp every opportunity when it comes to representing the Three Lions.
Team England’s first competition with Street Soccer as its official partner will be next month’s Four Nations Tournament, taking place in Edinburgh on September 18th and 19th.
A player at the 2018 Homeless World Cup and a coach the following year, Tyra highlights her fond memories with Team England’s women’s team.
“Before first playing for Team England, I didn’t know what to expect. I had no idea the Homeless World Cup was such a big event, but I am sort of glad in a way that I was unprepared for that because it allowed me to push myself out there and speak to new people and learn new things. That’s the full experience that I wanted.”
Tyra first heard about the event from a friend Sarah, who played for England in the 2017 Homeless World Cup in Oslo and knew there was something special about the tournament after quizzing her on her arrival back in the UK. Street Soccer’s Jack Badu was influential in Tyra’s selection, after visiting her community college to deliver a session at Arsenal’s Market Road football pitch in early 2017.
“Jack delivered a session for us and explained to the girls about the whole Team England project, it was there and then I decided I wanted to apply. After the application, I was training with the girls at Black Prince Trust Hub every Tuesday and I was picked for the squad for the Mexico tournament in 2018. It was an amazing experience. I am still so close to all the girls who went and it was just a brand new thing for us all, meeting new people from all these different teams. Despite the language barriers, it was just amazing.”
The cultural difference between players is something that players often mention when returning from the international event, however Tyra mentions that this is all part of the learning experience.
“The experience of playing with Team England has helped me come out my comfort zone. It was a real eye opener, learning about new cultures around the world. That’s something I hadn’t really thought about before. The language barriers couldn’t stop us!”
After a successful tournament in Mexico City with Team England, Tyra and her close friend ShakeelaH were identified as ideal candidates to lead the women’s side in Cardiff for the Homeless World Cup in 2019. Tyra believes the support of Street Soccer staff Jack and Craig McManus was key to her personal development in these events.
“Jack managed the Homeless World Cup’s women’s team and his support was outstanding. He helped a lot of us girls to ensure we gave 100%. Craig was always on hand to help us too and hearing his own journey and experience of the tournament really touched a lot of the girls and opened our eyes to see what the tournament can do for people. I feel like the Street Soccer guys give you a lot of preparation and support for events like these. Both mentally and physically. They’re a great support system.”
With Edinburgh just around the corner, Tyra has no doubts that players starting their Team England journey will have a special experience.
“To anyone playing with Street Soccer, don’t think twice about playing with Team England. You won’t regret it. The support you get from the likes of Jack and Craig is amazing. I would say to players to take every opportunity they can. Go and enjoy yourself because it’s the experience that counts. You’ll remember the relationships you build, for life.”
As part of the opportunities presented by Street Soccer London, I had the opportunity of interviewing former Arsenal & current Birmingham City Forward, Chuks Aneke. Born & bred in Newham, Aneke was a promising product of the Arsenal Youth Academy, which at the time was one of the Hottest youth Academies in world football (in terms of upcoming talent). He joined Arsenal’s Academy in 2001 at the age of 7 alongside some other (would be) big names like Harry Kane and Jack Wilshere.
Chuks described the opportunity to not only play for Arsenal but to play for them at such a young age and a long time as a ‘Blessing from God’ which could be acknowledged considering how difficult it is amongst youths/aspiring footballers in England/London to make it in the professional scene of the game we all know and love to day.
“Diaby was different“
Aneke was 16 when he first broke him into the Arsenal First Team, one of the youngest out of the crop. He pointed out the difference in the level of quality in comparison to his training with the reserves/academy and made it clear that once he got a taste of First Team football, there was nothing else that enticed him. Reserves Football didn’t feel the same again. “The tempo was like 1000% quicker” said Chuks, “…people make quicker decisions”
When asked about how he felt during his first training session, Aneke said he was more excited and hungry then nervous. Nerves were there but they were overshadowed by his joy and want to play amongst some of the biggest players in the Premier League. When asked who made him feel most welcome in the squad, the striker was quick to comment on Emmanuel Eboue’s energy shown not only towards him but also the other youngsters. He told me about how he (Eboue) invited him and a crop of Arsenal youngsters to his House for a BBQ & further went on to appreciate Eboue’s hospitality by saying “He [Eboue] didn’t need to do that, even me now, I always make sure the youngers feel welcome but I wouldn’t invite them to my house”.
I was most intrigued to find out who Aneke thought was the biggest baller in a star studded Arsenal squad that had names like Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie, and Samir Nasri etc. Aneke said that the player that left him in awe was Abou Diaby. The Frenchman’s quality was noticed not only in the league but in the world and Aneke was lucky enough to experience the Frenchman’s magic first hand. He said he possessed quick feet and always knew what he was going to do next (as did many of the players in the squad). His technical ability was as good as anyone in the team and his physical presence was unrivalled. Cesc Fabregas was another candidate for Chuks praise. Chuks commented on the Spaniard’s game by saying “Cesc Fabregas was sick, mad vision. When I talk about decision making & quick thinking he was just on a different level.” His link up play also received praise, where Aneke said that he played with two touches for the majority of games/training sessions.
“He was just that guy, he was the Boss & everyone called him the Boss too“
I also took the liberty to ask another important question. If you were to bump into someone that was at Arsenal from 1996-2018 you would ask the same thing too. I asked Akene about how he perceived Arsene Wenger in his time in the First Team and his presence over the whole squad. The former Gunner commented on him as a person saying that he wouldn’t speak a lot, but when he spoke everyone listened. He also had the pleasure of speaking to the French manager one to one. Wenger’s assistant manager, Pat Rice, took charge of most the drills during training, highlighted Chuks, continuing to point out that Wenger wasn’t a very ‘hands on’ manager.
“More often than not, it wouldn’t even be him leading training, it would be Pat Rice’ said Chuks. He wouldn’t shout and chase players throughout a session. Instead, he would only interrupt when necessary.”
One thing that interested me, as well as Aneke at the time, was that every player referred to Wenger as ‘Boss’. Everyone.
He had all his players in order and demanded respect in the most subtle form. In my opinion, that just oozes class, and I think many Arsenal players, who like Chuks, have played under Wenger would agree that he is the perfect embodiment of the word – professionalism.
Loan & Abroad
“I was hungry and thankful that things turned out well… I put in a lot of work that season, off the field too. Sometimes you just hit a purple patch and thank God that I did”
Chuks Aneke made it clear to me that his intention while playing at Arsenal was to break into the First Team and gain regular minutes and game time in an Arsenal jersey. He even told Arsene Wenger this at the time and said he was willing to go on Loan as a means of improving his game. Aneke spent spells on Loan at Stevenage (2011) and Preston North End (2012). The forward felt the impact and significance of those loan moves and how they played a big role to the development of his game, especially his last spell on loan during the 2013-14 Campaign at Crewe Alexandra, where he bagged 16 Goals and 6 Assists in 44 Games.
Chuks spoke about his desire to go “all out” in his loan spell, so other clubs would notice him and his ability. The striker illustrated that it took a change of mindset to push him to these impressive numbers.
“I was on the last year of my deal” said Chuks, “… so I had to pull something out of the bag so I got another move.”
His dedication that season earned the reward of sealing a move abroad to Belgium the next year for Pro League side Zulte Waregem and while it was him and himself that earned that move, he was still thankful to God that things turned out well. A truly humble individual.
He was keen enough to shed some light on his experience abroad and said that it allowed him to gain the ability to interact with other people from different backgrounds – a necessary skill which all pro footballers must have and coincidentally a skill that the majority of British players are known to lack (hence why they spend most of their career in England). Chuks now has the ability to socialise with Spaniards, Germans, and French etc. after two years in Belgium. Goes to show that a career in football has its benefits on & off the field.
To say that the Academy that Chuks played in was good would be considered as a massive understatement. At the time, Arsenal’s Academy was home to some of the biggest footballing talent in the world and as aforementioned, where one of the hottest youth academies in the world at that moment in time.
The Gunners had players like Woijech Szczseny, Craig Eastmond, Luke Ayling, Jay Emmanuel Thomas, Henri Lansbury, Francis Coquelin ~ we’d be here all day if I could name them all. But the one man who stood out to the footballing world the most out of the crop was none other than Jack Wilshere. The man most famous for stealing the show in the Champions League against Barcelona in 2011 at just 19. I asked Chuks what was Jack Wilshere like – was his talent obvious, did you know he was always going to make it etc.
“Jack was sick man, he was something different… when you played with him, the guy was sick”.
“He’d (Wilshere) go past like 6 players and stuff”
Both technically and physically gifted, he believed Jack Wilshere was destined for greatness and that he was unarguably the best player at the academy. In regards to the other players, who too were all gifted footballers, Chuks acknowledged their ability and knew that he was surrounded by brilliant footballers but never at a point in his time in the academy did he feel overwhelmed by his fellow players. He said that he believed there was always a sense of competition amongst the players. As well as the fact that they all wanted to be better than each other they also knew how to come together and play as a unit, which was depicted in their 2009 FA Youth Cup triumph, which Chuks was unfortunately not part of.
The forward also commented on other players like Jay Emmanuel Thomas, Henri Lansbury and Emmanuel Frimpong and how he thought that they would all reach bigger things in their footballing career. While it worked out for some more than others, Chuks can be considered as one of the more successful players from that Academy team. Playing in the Championship with Birmingham City and both making his mark both abroad and in England.
“Ability wise I was ridiculous, and that isn’t even me, like other people would say that about me, but there were certain areas that let me down.”
Though he wasn’t a success at Arsenal he claimed that he knew why he didn’t make it when asked – “I know why I can’t and won’t play at the highest, highest level… I lacked other things in my game that meant I wasn’t going to play at the highest, highest level but I’m at peace with that”. Even in itself, to represent Arsenal Football Club for more than 10 years is enough to tell you that he was a talented footballer – something he and his fellow players (at the time) all knew too well.
Racism is forever an ongoing factor that needs to be dealt with, not only within the game but in the world. I recalled the events of the Euro 2020 (2021) Final to Chuks were England faced Italy and lost on Penalties after Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all failed to convert their shots on goal. The online social media abuse the trio received was sickening and disgraceful, showing that racism is still a prominent issue.
As a man with a Nigerian Background but a footballer with an English nationality, I asked Chuks if the Racial Abuse that (black) players receive is enough of a significant factor to resist representing England at an International Level. He said no and further explained “People are ignorant… I’m not going to let ignorant people stop me from achieving what I want”. Very adamant in his answer, Chuks explained that if he ever got the chance to play for England, he would take it.
“Racial abuse won’t faze me, I won’t let words stop me from having the career I want for myself.”
“They don’t even know what they’re saying, so why would I let it get to me”.
A strong mentality that all young Black footballers should have when stepping out onto the field. Entertaining abuse would only act as a means of showing them that their words affect you, which coincidentally is what they are trying to achieve. Ignoring it does the opposite and frustrates them even more. A class response from Chuks.
Overall, Chuks was a very calm and level-headed person and it is obvious to see why he’s gone so far in his Career. Throughout the interview, he gave me off the energy of a person who is focused and determined to his career in football and is forever attempting to be the best version of himself in whatever he does. You may think that because he wasn’t a success at Arsenal he may not think the best of his football career but that isn’t the case, “I’m good with my life, I’m good with how everything turned out” said Chuks, his words depict that he didn’t dwell on his ‘failure’ at Arsenal and moved onto better things. Chuks is now enjoying play for one of England’s most historic Football Clubs in Birmingham City.
Aneke is on a good path and I believe his strong mentality has helped this. His attitude is second to none. Not a lot of players are keen to go on Loan, so to tell your manager, and not just any manager (Arsene Wenger), that you are willing to try out a loan spell to better your game just shows that he approached his football career with the right attitude, which is something a lot of young and talented footballers fail to understand the importance of in football or in any form of sport. He’s an individual that is aware of his worth and ability. The experience to talk to a footballer like himself for me was great and I was glad to know that it was reciprocated back from Chuks’ perspective. He said the talk had been a ‘Trip down memory lane for him’ and that he rarely thinks about these things. I wish him all the best in the coming season and hopefully he’ll get a chance to showcase his talent in the Premier League before the end of his career.
Street Soccer London are delighted to be part of the Four Nations Challenge Cup, which will take place in Edinburgh over the weekend of the 18th and 19th September.
As official Team England partner, Street Soccer London will play teams from Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, travelling up with both a men’s and women’s team to the Scottish capital for the two-day event.
The venue will be an exciting city centre location which will be announced later in the month. With fixtures played across both days, we are looking forward to meeting new friends across the UK.
The Homeless World Cup Foundation (HWCF) has introduced this special two-day regional event between HWCF’s Street Football Partners from around the UK, including our partners at Street Soccer Scotland. We are delighted to be beginning the start of a new journey for our players.
The schedule will consist of a round-robin tournament, culminating with a final on the Sunday.
Craig McManus, Manager for Street Soccer London is delighted to launch the Team England journey in Edinburgh, he highlighted:
“We are excited about being part of this unique Four Nations Tournament. It offers our players a wonderful opportunity to connect and build new, positive and long lasting relationships with our friends, family and partners from across the UK. This is the start of something fresh and exciting for us all and we are eager to get on that pitch to represent Team England in such an amazing city!”
Mel Young, President and Founder of the Homeless World Cup Foundation, said:
“The Homeless World Cup Foundation is delighted to introduce this unique tournament for our Street Football Partners in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The Four Nations Challenge Cup will use the same pitch layout and rules as our annual tournament and will allow players, who have been starved of competitive football the chance to be doing what they love and be out on the pitch again and representing their country.
“Since 2003 we have proved that using the power of football can change lives and though our partnerships across the world we want to include and support as many people as possible. With the past two annual tournaments being postponed due to the pandemic, we wanted to take the opportunity to create something for the players involved and we couldn’t think of a better location in Scotland’s capital city for this showcase event to take place. We hope that passers-by will drop by and watch some quality football, some fun exhibitions matches and enjoy the other entertainment we’ve got planned across the weekend.”
Street Soccer London are delighted to be formally announced as the Homeless World Cup’s official partner for Team England.
Players experiencing homelessness and social exclusion will now have the opportunity to represent England at future competitions under the Homeless World Cup banner.
The Homeless World Cup is a global annual event, with both men’s and women’s competitions taking place in an elected host nation. Previous tournaments have taken place in iconic locations such as Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, under the Eiffel Tower in Paris as well as other major cities like Melbourne, Amsterdam and Mexico City.
The format for the tournament is four-a-side games lasting 14 minutes each. There is a group stage and knockouts with massive crowds packed around small-sided artificial pitches. Over 50 nations are represented at each tournament, with over 500 players taking part. Of those participating:
94% Say the Homeless World Cup positively impacted their lives
83% Improved social relations with family and friends
77% Changed their lives significantly because of their involvement in football
71% Continue to play the sport
Through the introduction of this partnership, Street Soccer London will have 4 key goals:
To create life changing experiences for players representing Team England
To create more football activity & opportunities for people experiencing homelessness/social exclusion across England
To raise our voice and challenge stigma by changing the perception of homelessness and people experiencing homelessness
Create Positive Change Through Football
Craig McManus, manager for Street Soccer London, highlighted the impact that the Homeless World Cup has, having played in the tournament himself:
“Street Soccer London are honoured and privileged to be confirmed as Team England partner for the Homeless World Cup. We look forward to using this opportunity to create positive change for our players, whilst being part of the inspirational movement in changing the perception of homelessness around the world.”
Mel Young, President and Founder of the Homeless World Cup Foundation, said: “The Homeless World Cup Foundation is delighted to welcome Street Soccer London as our new partner to represent England in our Network of over 70 partners worldwide. Street Soccer London has a dedicated and professional team using football as a tool to engage with and support marginalised people to change their lives for the better.
“At the Foundation we have proved that using the power of football can change lives and though our partnerships across the world we want to include and support as many people as possible. Street Soccer London has exciting plans to expand across the whole of England and we are encouraged about the possibility of more lives being changed as a result of their work and their involvement with us. We wish them all the success for the future.”
The tournament is unique, empowering and has a direct impact on players making positive changes to their attitudes and perceptions. Supporters for the Homeless World Cup in the past have included Lewis Hamilton, Colin Farrell and Michael Sheen.
We will be announcing further details and updates very soon.
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