Wednesday 25 July 2012
Coaches from the Crystal Palace Kickz programme believe their success in the Kickz Cup 2012 last weekend was a significant moment for the town of Croydon.
Palace won the Under-18 Boys title at Barnet Powerleague after coming through a competitive finals day in which they defeated Leyton Orient in the final.
The success comes almost a year after the area was badly affected by the London riots last August, a point that was not lost on Crystal Palace Croydon Kickz Project Officer Trevor Meader.
"Croydon has had a tough time over the last 12 months, with all the negative stories and the riots," he said.
"But we have been trying to highlight that there are actually good things going on in Croydon and these boys have come out and proved that, not over the last 12 months but over the three or four years that we have been there. They have progressed so much.
"Kickz is about targeting young people who are at risk of being involved in crimes"
- Kieran Connolly
"The Kickz project has been going well for Palace. Hopefully there are good things to come in the future."
Kickz began in 2006 and uses the power of football in some of the most deprived areas of the country to create safer and more respectful communities.
The scheme improves understanding and builds relationships with the police as well as creating routes into education and employment and now runs nationwide, with more than 57,000 young people being engaged by the initiative.
The Kickz Cup gives youngsters the opportunity to meet people of their own age from other areas and break down barriers in a positive environment.
Over 700 players featured in the fourth running of the event with all the 44 Kickz clubs entering teams in the Under-18 and Under-16 age groups for the four regional qualifiers in June.
The qualifiers produced 17 teams for the finals day last weekend, including Manchester City, Newcastle United, Manchester United and Arsenal, while five girls teams also took part.
"It’s been a really good day," added Meader. "We have got lots of people from different communities meeting up and speaking with each other.
"I noticed a few people from the regionals, which made it an even better day, especially when we were having food and there were West Ham and Palace guys sitting down together and talking.
"It made it a bit more of a day, so when we were playing the games it was more friends playing friends rather than opponents.
"I was really impressed with the day, the format, the refereeing. The boys have been really impressed."
Palace's Bromley Kickz Project Officer Kieran Connolly agreed that the initiative has made a massive impact on the youngsters in his area.
"They are boys that were involved in trouble and doing things that they shouldn’t have been doing," he said. "But it goes to show that with the help of Kickz, they get opportunities like this and they make the most of it because they are really good footballers.
"This event is really good but it is not the main thing about Kickz. Kickz is about targeting young people who are at risk of being involved in crimes. That is the main thing."
"Just keep trying, keep trying to learn, listen to the people that are coaching you and always give your best"
- Teddy Sheringham
One of the unique aspects of the Kickz project is the number of young people that come through the project and then return to the scheme to volunteer and coach.
And Barre Adan from Barnet Kickz, one of the volunteers at the finals day and the regional qualifying, said the finals day was "breathtaking".
"Kickz is a good project for young kids," he said. "They come together, play football and learn. I have had an experience of a lifetime today."
Former Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur striker Teddy Sheringham was the guest of honour and was impressed with the standard of football on display.
He told the youngsters: "There's a lot of talent out there that might have been missed and you never know who is watching. If you are enjoying your football and looking good, you never know what is going to happen.
"Just keep trying, keep trying to learn, listen to the people that are coaching you and always give your best."
In addition to the winners of the Under-16, Under-18 and girls sections, there were also team awards for fair play as well as individual best player honours.
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore added: "We know at the Premier League that football has a unique power to engage and educate young people about their behaviour as well as improve social awareness.
"There are many examples of admirable and positive behaviour in the game that can give children something to aspire to, but the Kickz Cup symbolises the community spirit of each and every Kickz project across the country.
"What this tournament does is highlight fair play, team spirit, positive attitude and a commitment to making safer and stronger communities for everyone."
Under-16 Boys Winners
Under-16 Boys Runners-up
West Ham United
Under-18 Boys Winners
Under-18 Boys Runners-up
Under-18 Girls Winners
Under-18 Girls Runners-up
Best Design Winner of Nike ID voucher
Summer Holmes – Wolverhampton Wanderers
Player of Tournament Under-16 Boys
Anthony Dudley – Manchester City
Player of Tournament Under-18 Boys
Jamal Willer – Leyton Orient
Player of Tournament Under-18 Girls
Abbey Joice – Newcastle United
Fair Play Under-16 Boys
Fair Play Under-18 Boys
Fair Play Under-18 Girls
Brighton and Hove Albion