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Inter House Christmas Cup Game

Our adult participants from the Black Prince Trust and Shoreditch session came together, radiating a friendly and competitive spirit , in the inter House Christmas Cup Game.

Our adult programme is from individuals seeking asylum and refugees and people experienced homelessness to those reconstructing lives after prison, our diverse players find common ground through the game. These gatherings are more than a chance to compete; they are a foundation for solidarity, fostering friendships, cultivating connections, and significantly boosting both mental and physical health.

Every game is a testament to our community’s resilience and inclusiveness. A huge shout out to all the players and our wonderful coaches and staff members for making these moments truly special. Together, we’re not just playing a game, but cultivating a stronger, healthier, and more connected community.

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Raising the Game at Abbey Road Studios

A memorable night at the iconic Abbey Road Studios brought together players, staff, supporters and guests in aid of Street Soccer London.

In partnership with the tech-wealth management fund Y Tree, we organised the ‘Raise the Game’ Gala event. This event offered our guests a unique opportunity to witness the transformative impact that football has on the lives of our players, staff, and volunteers. The evening featured exciting fundraising activities, a diverse range of auction lots as well as first class entertainment.

The renowned British soul legend, Heather Small, along with local pop talent, Eloise Voila, set the stage on fire with their captivating musical performances. The three-time BRIT award winners, Scouting for Girls, ended the night on a high note, serenading guests with classics from the 00’s.

At Street Soccer, we believe in using football as a catalyst for change in boroughs where youth crime rates are alarmingly high. In 2022 alone, youth crime rates saw a distressing 20% increase. Our aim is to be part of the solution by creating an inclusive and welcoming community through the power of football. Our weekly Street Soccer sessions offer structure, routine, and purpose to our players while providing them access to vital support services.

Through these initiatives, Street Soccer London is making a positive impact within the local community and is committed to expanding this work further. Founder and CEO, David Duke, highlighted the tremendous efforts put into delivering the ‘Raise the Game’ event and the impact it will have.

“There’s been an incredible amount of work that has went into this event and we’ve been delighted with the support we’ve received. The event showcases the achievement of our players and the dedication of the staff and volunteers who make it happen on a weekly basis.

The ‘Raise the Game’ event also allows us to reach even more players in the community and provide access to new support networks and opportunity, in a time where we know that level of support is needed more than ever.”

Find out more about our work and its impact, online.

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Power of partnerships: Met Police

Over the past twelve months, Street Soccer London has been linking up with influential partners in the local community in order to support our players both on and off of the pitch.

In that time, we have been delighted to develop a strong relationship with the Metropolitan Police, who have been working with us at a number events in order to confidence and overall relationships between players and the police. We spoke to Community Engagement Officer, Nigel Pearce, to find out more about the partnership.

“My role with the Metropolitan Police is primarily to improve the relationship between the communities that live and work within Lambeth and Southwark and the organisation I work for. This has been a progressive partnership with Street Soccer, looking to improve trust, confidence and overall relationships between those attending and the police.”

Nigel highlights that the Met’s visits to the Black Prince Trust allow the police to listen to young people but also have honest conversation about how relationships can improve. He says “I feel like by coming in to this environment, chatting about football or even joining in, means that the young people can see someone with similar interests behind the uniform.”

With the introduction of the Bootroom at the Black Prince Trust, Street Soccer are looking to have more frequent workshops with partners such as the Met Police. Nigel believes that the relaxed environment at our base is a strong benefit to the relationship. 

“All the officers enjoy engaging with the players. By being seen on a more personal level, it allows more open and honest conversations, which can build relationships over time. We really value the power that sport has to open these doors and I believe that the programmes that Street Soccer deliver can change lives.” 

Nigel acknowledges that unfortunately the Met Police have not always got things right, but believes that working together with the community, positive change is achievable.  

“The promotion of positive interaction with police is a real progression. Working alongside SSL and the great work you are doing, we would love to be able to complement and support positive relationships and be able to address areas where we can improve. The willingness and openness from Street Soccer to provide these opportunities has been really appreciated within the organisation.” 

Programmes Coordinator Jack Badu believes that this partnership has had a positive impact on players within the programme, highlighting that “The Met Police are a long way away from being trusted by all members of our communities. Our hope is to see a change with the voices of our young people amplified using our monthly Bootroom sessions.

The police are neither the solution nor the problem as together we need to build a community where police see our young people as just young people and we as a community know who to turn to for help, support, and advice. Building a relationship and getting to know officers on a first name terms in environments that are stress free is key to this” 

Street Soccer London continues to strive for a healthier, safer and more inclusive community and believes that by working with local partners, the power of football can continue to change lives. All of our programmes are free, with drop-in sessions available for young people and adults, both male and female. You can find out more about them here. 

If you are a local organisation looking to learn more about the work we do, then please contact us via info@streetsoccerlondon.org 

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“It’s amazing how quickly my mindset has changed” | Sanchia’s story

Street Soccer London’s commitment to female football has never been stronger and one of Team England’s Four Nations Cup champions has highlighted that the ‘family feel’ among players is bound to bring more success for newer female participants.

Sanchia, 26, is from London and has been involved with football from a young age. Having found Street Soccer earlier this year, Sanchia was involved in the Four Nations Cup in Edinburgh after being referred through another sports programme at the Black Prince Trust.

After lifting the trophy in the Scottish capital, Sanchia explains that she was the only girl in her age group to play football at primary school, joining in with the boys in order to play competitively. During her younger years, she played for Millwall, Fulham and Chelsea Soccer School, however fell away from the game in her teenage years due to a lack of security in her social circles. Having experienced homelessness and recovering from substance abuse, Sanchia highlights how rediscovering her love for football has quickly created new habits.

“It’s amazing how quickly my mindset has changed; I am now focusing on fuelling my body correctly with nutrients and thinking more positively each morning.”

Finding new connections through football has meant that she has discovered trust in her new friends, attributing this to a stronger sense of recovery.

“With the people I used to spend time with, meant it was very easy to fall back in to old habits and go down a dark path. Being part of Street Soccer brings a real sense of unity and ensures you don’t feel alone – most of us have had similar struggles and that helps build a real connection.”

After a break of almost 12 years playing football, the Four Nations tournament was a perfect opportunity for Sanchia to express herself and benefit from the beautiful game. All four nations came together across the weekend to create new friendships and Sanchia highlighted the pure joy from her team-mates and opponents really hit home.

“I took so much from that weekend. Even the teams that weren’t wining on the park, you wouldn’t know because they were on top of the world. It’s a weekend I’ll never forget and I’ve met some absolutely amazing people who I can stay in touch with and learn from.”

With a new women’s only session recently launched in Hounslow, Sanchia urged those who are keen to know more about the programme to take their chance.

 “Even though I was quite active growing up, there’s a point where your life slows down and you need more excitement.

Regardless of that, I was introduced to mentally engaging and physically active sports. Not only did it shut down insecurities but opened up passions I didn’t know I had.

Being part of this larger group helped turn my anxiety into courage due to the strength of the people that had surrounded me. It’s a hard thing to find but when you spend the time exploring, you find what is best suited for you and I think the support from Street Soccer makes it all worthwhile.”

Our Street 45 programme is structured to appeal to female players using ‘football themed’ exercise and aerobic sessions. 

Sessions are broken down into two halves – 45 minutes of fitness, followed by 45 minutes of personal development. 

Our female staff offer peer support and mentoring, and we also offer players the opportunity to take part in first aid, sports coaching and CV workshops. All sessions are open to anyone 18+ and no experience or fitness require. The programme is fun and inclusive, and it’s not just limited to football either!

Taking place every Wednesday from 1 to 2:30pm, sessions will be delivered at Heston Pools & Fitness by our new programme coordinator Sophia.

Contact Sophia to get involved, on sophia@streetsoccerlondon.org or 07751 813527

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Freedom, friends, football and Frankie

In 2016 a terrified, persecuted teenager was using all his wit and guile to constantly evade – sometime succeeding, sometimes not – the forces that hounded him in the country of his birth, causing him to merely exist in the shadows. Fast forward five years and those same traits have helped him earn the captain’s armband of his now-adopted country’s street soccer side, his face beaming in the unexpected sunshine of a Scottish September day. Freedom, friends and football have become Frankie Juma’s new way of life.

“I escaped from Sudan when I was just 20,” he explains. “I’m from the Darfur region, an area which is very poor, and from a tribe that is not traditionally Sudanese so we weren’t really accepted. The authorities did not want us there and I suffered a lot of discrimination. They had a religious agenda and my friends, family and I were constantly being arrested – almost kidnapped – and the only way to save my life became to escape and never go back again.” 

Four and a half years ago, Frankie left his family, friends and everything he knew to travel to the far north-west corner of Sudan and escape across its border to neighbouring Libya.

A HARD DECISION, BEFORE A LONG JOURNEY

“It wasn’t easy for me to leave my country and leave my family behind – it was a terrible experience – and it was a struggle to travel across and try to settle in another place,” he recalls. “Then clashes started in Libya and that country became unsafe for me. There is big problem there with modern slavery, I saw many of my friends kidnapped – it was really hard.”

Unable to escape south, east or west, Frankie was left with only one option – to make his way north to the coast and cross the Mediterranean to Italy. Eighteen months ago. At the start of the global pandemic.

“I crossed the sea by inflatable with 101 other people. It was a tiny boat and the waves were very high. We were starting to sink and I was sure I was going to die,” he says quietly.

“Then we were rescued by an organisation called Open Arms who took us to Italy. But this happened during Covid and there was no place to stay so I was homeless for three months. I joined with a group of guys in the same situation and we travelled to France, ending up in Calais. Things were really bad and I knew my only hope was to get to the United Kingdom – I understand the situation with so many asylum seekers and refugees but I was desperate.” 

A NEW CHAPTER IN A NEW HOMELAND

On arrival in the UK. Frankie was offered a roof over his head and put in touch with Renaissance Foundation, a London youth charity who, in turn, introduced him to Street Soccer London as a way to help his mental and physical wellbeing. 

“I’d been through a lot in my country, a lot of mental issues, but through football you can make friends, you find a way to release all of the negativity – it’s really helped me a lot. Being part of the team, part of the England team here has helped me and they’re now the friends and family that I don’t have.” Frankie’s smile broadens as he surveys the hustle and noise of day one of the Four Nations festival in the centre of Edinburgh and the team-mates with whom he has travelled – a voyage without the hazards and heartache of his previous five years’ journey. 

“Everything before this seems another life ago now. Here I am representing my country, and I’m the captain of the team – they told me I had the courage and the personality to lead the team. That makes me feel so proud.  

“When they were playing the anthem and hearing the words ‘God Save our Gracious Queen’ I really feel it. For me your country, your real homeland, is the place where you feel safe and that’s what I feel here in the UK. I really feel home, so I feel really proud. I am home.” 

Credit: Edinburgh Photographic

Words: Isobel Irvine

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Mason Mount takes part in special Q&A with Street Soccer London!

Building on the success of Sure’s Breaking Limits Programme, we teamed up with Sure to put on a unique training session at Street Soccer London, a London-based NGO partner of the programme, which uses football-inspired training and development as a way of empowering young people who are affected by social exclusion.

Our coaches and players from Street Soccer London were given a training session by Chelsea FC Foundation coaches, specifically designed around Module 2 of the Breaking Limits Programme: Confidence and Opportunity. The Street Soccer London coaches were then joined by none other than Blues legend Joe Cole, who surprised the players and gave some special words of inspiration to the players, before helping to take part in the drills and encourage them during the training session!

And the surprises didn’t stop there! As part of the exciting day, there was also a special appearance from midfield maestro and England star Mason Mount, who took part in a live Q&A with the players. Questions included: ‘What’s your favourite moment of your football career?’, to which he replied ‘I think scoring the goal in the semi-final (of the Champions League) against Madrid…that was a big one for me!’ Mason also touched upon how important teammates have been in helping to boost his personal confidence.

Speaking about the event, Mason Mount said: “It was fantastic to be part of this initiative for Sure’s Breaking Limits Programme alongside my idol growing up, Joe Cole. I really enjoyed being able to join remotely and take part in the Q&A with the players and coaches from Street Soccer London, giving some insight into those who have given me the confidence to be at that level where I am at today.”

Sure believes that everyone should be able to experience the incredible physical, mental and social benefits movement brings, without fear of judgement. Working with Beyond Sport – a global leader for driving sustainable social change through sport – the Sure Breaking Limits Programme equips coaches, teachers and community leaders with the skills to empower young people with the confidence and opportunity to move more and overcome barriers through sports-based programmes.

To find out more, visit: www.breaking-limits.co.uk

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Success for Team England in Edinburgh

Street Soccer London’s first event as Team England partner ended in silverware as England women lifted the Four Nations Cup in Edinburgh.

A terrific weekend for our players ended in celebration with both teams impressing a busy crowd on both days.

Jack Badu, Team England Womens Coach, spoke of his admiration at the squad gelling so well across a warm weekend in the Scottish captial.

“This has been one of the best tournaments I have ever been involved in. Everyone has enjoyed themselves and that has been the most important thing for me. The relationships we have built this weekend, is something we will have for the rest of our lives. It doesn’t end here!”

Both teams rejoice as the ladies secure top spot

Both the men and women teams were supportive of one another, adding to a great atmosphere at the Mound in Princes Street.

The boys, lead by Craig McManus, were naturally disappointed at losing the final to Northern Ireland but created bonds with one another that will be crucial for their development going forward.

The highlight of the weekend came on Sunday afternoon as the women defeated Northern Ireland 7-3 in a tightly contested affair.

Goals from Elesha and Hannah, in addition to hat-tricks each from Sian and Zainab were enough to ensure that the Four Nations trophy was headed back to London.

Goalkeeper for the weekend Becky, was delighted with her experience on her travel up from Liverpool.

“The way we have all gelled together has been amazing. I was quite overwhelmed when I first got there but its all been worth it, I’ve made new friends for life here.”

They laughed, they danced, they loved it. Our Team England squad for 2021 made the most of their chance to represent their country and made us all enormously proud. Well done to both teams and a big thank you to everyone who supported such a special event.

Team England: Sian Bah, Zanaib El-Mouden, Elesha Edman, Becky Halpin, Hannah Murphy, Sanchia Napier-Lawrence, Hayley Doran.

Frankie Juma, Imrane Assafi Yaya, Shan Michael, Samuel Kur, Cherif Wahab, Marc Harvey, Mounir Jdaa, Yassin Mohammed.

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Trio reflect on a year at Street Soccer

Street Soccer players Victor, Abdi and Isaac have urged London locals to come along to sessions at the Black Prince’s Trust, describing their own experience over the last year as ‘special’.

All three players, who are 17 years old, have been with Street Soccer for around a year now and have highlighted the positive impact the football and the people have had on their lives.

“I’ve been with Street Soccer since last summer but it feels like a lot longer! I feel like I’ve got my own family here as I’m here so often. Since coming, I’ve noticed an increase in my confidence and social skills, I love it here” said Victor.

Attending on both Mondays and Wednesdays, the lads underline that the welcome they received made a real difference on arrival.

 “When I first came along, I got a great welcome. They sat us down and told us what Street Soccer were about and what they plan to do, and that’s what caught my attention. It wasn’t about the football and a competition between the players, it was about more than that” mentioned Abdi.

“When I first arrived, everyone was so kind and there are rarely any arguments, they really make you feel at home. The coaches make sure everyone is involved and we grow as a team. It puts a smile on my face” added Victor.

Coaches Craig, Jack, Yasin and Matthew have worked hard to create a safe and enjoyable environment for players. With COVID restrictions easing over the past six months, Street Soccer staff ensured that players were involved in the process of getting the sessions back on the pitch.

Abdi was one of three Street Soccer players who delivered a local event in Lambeth and emphasises that these opportunities are what makes Street Soccer such a tight-knit community.

Abdi

“Having the chance to deliver that event and coach on our own was fantastic. It’s definitely something I want to keep doing as my passion for football means that I want to see others develop as players too. In the last year, we’ve had a lot of great experiences like the 32 Boro Cup and some educational workshops. I think this stuff has helped with my self-esteem and controlling your emotions. Others have said the same.”

Isaac, who was delighted to get more of his friends along to the sessions, pointed out that the sessions have had benefits both on and off the pitch.

“Before coming, I had trouble sort of interacting with people outside my peer group, whereas the help I’ve received here means that I am in a good place now. Over my time here, I’ve seen a lot of development in my discipline, my confidence and I’ve had some other great opportunities to express myself.”

The trio speak candidly about their own personal experience with football, and the platform Street Soccer has given them to grow as players and people. Victor, who continues to grin from ear to ear during our discussion, highlights that his confidence is sky high thanks to Street Soccer (not that we had noticed!):

“My confidence was quite low when I first started, and it takes time. However we started doing some workshops and this allowed some one to one time too, a bit of personal development. During this time, it helped me learn a lot of new skills and I think the rest of the boys benefitted too. My boy Yasin named me as team coordinator recently due to how much I’ve grown as a player and I was buzzing with that – thank you Yas!

I’d love to keep developing with Street Soccer, ideally I’d like to help some of the younger kids who were a bit like me when I first arrived – I can pass on my experience. Long term? I’d maybe like to be a coach like Matthew or Craig, they’re great at what they do!”

A common theme across all of the players who spoke about their experience, is that coming along allows them a safe space for at least a couple of hours after school. Street Soccer London aims to provide free football and further opportunities to engage with young players and ensure they are making positive choices with their free time. Abdi underlines the significance of the positive environment that has been established at the Black Prince’s Trust.

Isaac

“Street Soccer have had a huge impact on the local community and its grown so much over my time here, there are as many as 50 people at most of the sessions. We’re all here because it’s a safe space and it’s enjoyable.

Most of the people coming together are local but we have more travelling over because they know this is a good place to come and play football. Our sessions are 4-6pm, so if we never had this, some boys might be out on the streets doing stuff that we don’t know about, so I think this is a very safe environment for everyone.”

With the school term having just started, there was no lack of enthusiasm from the players who ranged from 8 years old to 18, across a number of the available pitches in Lambeth. The facility at Powerleague Vauxhall is in the heart of the community and the players here are well aware of the impact that their engagement is having in the area. All three players hoped to see the sessions continue to go from strength to strength and are acutely aware of their role in helping with that.

“It’s a safe space here, there are great people here who take care of you and are always on hand for a chat. I like to encourage more of my friends to come down and play because it’s a great place to feel safe whilst enjoying yourself, you sort of forget about all your other worries when you’re here” says Isaac.

The power of football can not be underestimated and among the vibrancy of south London, there continues to be a number of positive stories emerging from Street Soccer London.

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Street Soccer players impress at Lambeth Youth event

Street Soccer players had the opportunity to lead a youth session in Lambeth as part of the Celebrating Young Lambeth event last week.

Clinton, Abdi and Sobaan delivered a football-themed session to youngsters at Kennington Park in Lambeth. This was a fantastic opportunity for our boys to showcase their development as young leaders in front of a number of other organisations. Street Soccer coach Matthew was present on the day and was blown away by the confidence, leadership and communication shown by our three lads:

“The boys were excellent. From the very start, they took ownership of the session and were able to organise each drill and activity in a clear and engaging way. I’m very proud of them.”

All three players impressed with their leadership on the day

The trio have been assisting Street Soccer sessions during the summer and have shown clear progress in their personal development.

“There are a number of players who we can now rely on to help with events, sessions or just in and around the facility. It’s positive to see such a community feel to Street Soccer and I believe that’s why it is so special for a lot of these guys to come here” said Matthew.

Their football-themed session was popular among younger players

The multi-sport event in Lambeth was a positive way to round off a successful summer for Street Soccer London. We would like to thank all the amazing organisations who we’ve worked with both at this event and previous. We look forward to some more exciting opportunities later this year.

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Chuks Aneke | Interview

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.

Arsene Wenger

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.

Arsenal Academy

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”.

Photo: Jack Wilshere / (Arsenal Football Club)

“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

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.

Summary

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.

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