Wednesday 22 February 2012
Football coach Ray Ansah was in a gang and spent time in prison but with the help of The Prince's Trust Football Initiative, he has turned his life around.
At a reception to mark 15 years of the initiative at Clarence House this week, Ansah told his story.
"I was born in east London in the borough of Hackney. I was raised in a single-parent household and on an estate that was pretty tough.
"I was taken to the police station and I didn't see the outside world for another two-and-a-half years"
- Ray Ansah
I was about 10 or 11 years old when I started to realise that my mum was suffering from some type of mental disorder and at that time she was struggling to hold down a job, so things were quite tough at home.
At around that time I started taking solace in a local gang. For me, it offered support, brotherhood, a way of making money and bringing something home.
It progressively got worse as I got older and when I was 13, 14, it got to the point when my mum said we have to leave this place.
That started a period when we were in temporary accommodation, moving from place to place, and I was about 17 or 18 when we finally settled down in Camden.
I went to college and started to enjoy school again but things were still tough at home, my mum was still struggling, at one point she was sectioned for a month and things really took a turn for the worse.
Through all of that, I made it to university through clearing. I wasn't doing a degree I wanted but I was away from the local area and trying to do something positive.
During my first year I went back to my old estate, thinking of a way to make some money. A friend of mine said there's a good opportunity for you, the police won't be involved.
I took him up on that opportunity, that was Easter Sunday 2006. Straight after coming out of this gentleman's household - this drug dealer - the police arrested me, I was taken to the police station and I didn't see the outside world for another two-and-a-half years.
Prison was really difficult at points. I kept my head down. About a year into my sentence I heard word that my father had died. It was tough to take. I was still always thinking it's going to be too late for me when I get out, I am going to have to go back to this lifestyle that I had been leading for the last 10-15 years.
Two weeks before I left prison, we did a resettlement course and a few organisations come down, and the Prince's Trust was one of them.
"The nice lady at the Trust asked: 'What's your passion?' No-one had ever asked me that"
- Ray Ansah
I got out, I went for a couple of job opportunities, one was at a local sports store. I got the job, came back for the signing of the contract and the lady jokingly said: 'Has anyone got a criminal record?' I put my hand up and said: 'Yes, I do'.
And the woman said: 'I'm sorry but we are not able to take you on'. She ripped up the contract.
After that I thought I would go back to the Trust to see what they could do for me. The nice lady there asked me one question that always stands out, she said: 'What's your passion?' No-one had ever asked me that.
One thing I've always been passionate about is football. I love watching it and playing it. She said: 'We'll get you on a Get Started With Football course, we'll see whether you like it and we'll go from there'.
A couple of months later I went down to Charlton Athletic, I did an FA Level One course down there, I met the manager, saw the first team train, it was a brilliant experience.
I thought: 'I can really do this on a day-to-day basis, being on the training ground, working with the players.' So I said to the Trust: 'I would love to do my Level Two'. A couple of months later they sorted it out for me.
They advised me when I was thinking of doing a degree in Sports Science. It was two years ago that I started it, I'm now in my final year and I'm about to finish my Uefa 'B' badge for coaching.
I am doing a lot better than I thought I would be doing at this time after being released from prison. That's due to the support of the Trust."