Wednesday 22 January 2014
Tottenham Hotspur winger Andros Townsend was "hugely impressed" by the facilities at London's Capital City Academy after helping inaugurate its new third-generation artificial grass pitch that was built thanks to a grant from the Football Foundation.
"I didn't have anything like this at school, so to have something that enables these kids to learn the game all year round is brilliant"
Funded by the Premier League, The FA and government, the Football Foundation is the largest sports charity in the UK and its donation of £366,368 to the UK’s first academy has created one of the most modern sports facilities in the country that will also benefit the local community.
"It's an unbelievable facility," said Townsend, who made the trip across London from his base in Essex to lend his support to the cause. "To pull up at a school and see state-of-the-art 3G pitches is fantastic. I didn't have anything like this at school so for these young boys and girls to have something that enables them to play football all year round on good pitches and learn the game is brilliant. I hope a lot more schools develop in the next few years.”
"When I was a youngster the pitches were terrible, the games were called off every other week, but you come to a place like this now with new 3G pitches you can play all year round – I'm hugely impressed."
As well as Townsend, who took part in a question-and-answer session with pupils along with Arsenal and England winger Rachel Yankey, a host of dignitaries attended the event which marked the 10th anniversary of the Academy's opening.
Sir Trevor Brooking, the Director of Football at The FA, Sir Alan Parker CBE, the film director, Sir Frank Lowe, the project's sponsor, and Academy trustee and former Tottenham Hotspur striker Garth Crooks OBE were also present to reflect on the transformation over the last decade of a failing secondary school to a flourishing Academy, based within the sweeping walls of the striking Norman Foster-designed structure.
"At a school like this, where 84 different languages are spoken, when you play sport together, it breaks down a lot of barriers"
Sir Trevor Brooking
Capital City Academy specialises in sport and the arts and, according to Sir Trevor, it is the former that has helped to improve academic results over the last decade at the institution.
"Sport plays a key part in the upbringing of young people," said Sir Trevor. "When you play sport together, it breaks down a lot of barriers. At a school like this, where there are 84 languages spoken, the interaction between youngsters, from wherever they come and whatever their ability, is important."
The Capital City Academy has particularly benefited from empowering the students who attend the school. Sixth-formers wearing 'Sport Leader' jackets help coach younger students, giving them a greater sense of status, respect and direction.
"If anything has been the silver bullet for this school it's student leadership," said Philip O'Hare, who was principal at the establishment in its early years. "The idea was to train young people to be coaches and leaders to go into primary schools and coach younger kids.
"These 'sport leaders' were given a purpose and commanded huge respect among their peers. Through sport, the students here are brought up with the right values, and that respect for each other translates from the sports field into the classroom."
"Through sport, the students here are brought up with the right values"
The Capital City Academy's football team also earned the respect of Queens Park Rangers development side after beating them 4-2 in a match staged to inaugurate the new pitch.
"Our kids here have got a real passion for sport," said Fiona Dempsey, the Academy's Director of Sport. "With football, we're at the stage where playing is important but being a leader, being a referee, a linesman, a coach, all of those roles in the game, are nearly as important. This is especially so for the sixth-form players, because some might have tried to get scouted and know that's not working out for them, so they go down the route of our coaching programme.
"This state-of-the-art-facility is great because it will get used all the time by students - at lunchtimes and after school, thanks to the floodlights. We've also got community events that can take place. That gives us the chance to work with higher-level players whom we will attract because of the improved standard of the pitch. The students get to watch a better standard of play and then get involved in tournaments and events run by community groups.
"We're in an inner-city area which is unique because its multi-cultural nature is quite intense, but this school over the last 10 years has transformed the area," said Crooks, a trustee at the school since 2008. "When I started here parents were dumping their kids here. Now they are fighting to get them into the school.
"The Premier League gets the balance right between being a well-run business and giving something back to the community"
Garth Crooks, OBE
"We're very pleased with the way we have turned it around and sport plays a very important part in that transformation for taking the kids off the street and giving them an academic purpose. So getting the right facility where students can be very enthusiastic about playing sport was very important.
"I have been working closely with the Football Foundation for many years and I can only applaud the funding partners for their ongoing commitment.
"Seeing Andros interacting with the kids today, it just strikes me how the Premier League seems to get the balance right between being a well-run commercially successful business and giving something back to the community – and I know how impressed Rachel and Andros were with these magnificent facilities. I think we are all a bit jealous!"