Tuesday 25 June 2013
Watford enjoyed continued success at the Kickz Cup this month as the team who won the Under-16 male title in 2012 were unstoppable again in the Under-18 category this year. But a second consecutive victory has not lessened the impact the triumph at West Ham United's Boleyn Ground has had on the projects run by the club, says football and education project officer Greg Willerton.
The Watford squad of Roary Moore, Rex Kimona, Corey Johnson, Will Wambeek, Charlie Barton, Davis Warunge and Sam O'Neil, came through the regional qualifiers at Spurs Lodge without dropping a point or conceding a goal and on the finals day at the Boleyn Ground, they won five and drew one of their matches to win the "senior" title for the first time. Willerton believes the effect of the victory will be felt by both the players and youngers participants coming through.
"It's been really positive for the project and for the Community Trust as well"
"The boys are very disciplined and very focused on their football," Willerton told premierleague.com. "They take it very seriously and this shows them what hard work can achieve. We are really proud of the boys and delighted for them. It means a lot.
"Kickz puts them on the right pathway, a lot of them have their coaching qualifications and a lot of them volunteer with the younger groups. Some of them are mentors for the younger lads. We have got hundreds of kids that come down across our sessions and they hold the boys in high regard for what they have done. They have got a lot of respect for them and the boys use that in the right way."
Willerton says that young people taking part have a real sense of pride at being selected to represent their club at the Kickz Cup finals.
"It's great for them to get the kit on and to represent not just their estate and area, but a professional football club," he said. "Most youngsters don't get the chance to do that.
"To play at so many fantastic venues is brilliant for the boys and to play against clubs from all over the country is superb so I am full of praise for the Kickz tournament. It's brilliant."
For the project as a whole, the victory in London has been a major talking point, with Watford proudly displaying the Kickz Cup 2013 trophy at one of their projects.
"It has created a real buzz," Willerton said. "It's raised our profile. It has shown how good the lads are and how it can bring lads together from two different estates to work together. It's been really positive for the project and for the Community Trust as well.
"It shines a light on the hard work that goes on and is a great reward for everyone."
"It's credit to each and every one of the Kickz facilities that they are helping to bring up people in this way
In total, more than 900 young people from 118 teams took part in eight qualifying tournaments around the country. The events were not just about the football, with all the young people taking part in Diversity and Equality workshops hosted by Kick It Out, a body which campaigns for equality and inclusion in football, and Kickz.
The workshops enabled the participants to discuss what is classed as acceptable "banter" and what is not and Kick It Out's Mentoring and Leadership Project manager Troy Townsend said he was impressed with how well the sessions were received.
"It's always difficult when you ask young people to attend a workshop before going out to play football but I was blown away by the knowledge of the young people and the fact that they were very open and honest," Townsend told premierleague.com.
"I didn't know that the participation would be as good as what it was. They challenged, they wanted to know more and they wanted a good open discussion. Sometimes we don't listen to our young people enough. We have given them a platform and they have taken it.
"The seminars could have gone on a little bit as well. It's a credit to each and every one of the Kickz facilities that they are helping to bring up people in this way."
The Kickz programme began as a pilot in 2006 and is now delivered by 45 Premier League and Football League clubs in partnership with 19 police forces. Using the power of football, Kickz engages young people in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country, giving them the opportunity to play football and to take part in activities such as dance and music. There are also sessions and talks aimed at personal development and lifestyle choices such as career advice and the dangers of getting involved in drugs and gangs.
Sergeant Paul Colwell, part of the Youth Engagement team in the Metropolitan Police, has worked with Kickz for the last seven years and attended the Kickz Cup finals day at the Boleyn Ground.
"Kickz has surpassed all expectations. It's an incredible project"
Sergeant Paul Colwell
"To see an event on this scale in this wonderful stadium really brings it all to life," he said. "It makes a huge impact for the young people. It’s a day they will remember for the rest of their lives.
"The important thing to remember is that a lot of these people are probably limited in terms of how far they would move beyond the immediate area they live in so to go to a venue like West Ham and to meet people from all over the country, that’s a big thing.
"Kickz to me is about young people, realising their potential and creating safer communities. The achievements that are made never cease to amaze me. I have been so lucky to have been involved in Kickz, it has surpassed all expectations. It's an incredible project."