Communities

Prince's Trust Football Initiative celebrates landmark

23 Nov 2015
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Fraizer Campbell praises Premier League-backed scheme, which has now helped 25,000 people

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'This can help kids understand they have a choice'

Crystal Palace forward Fraizer Campbell and Eagles first-team coach John Salako were some of the special guests at Selhurst Park last week at a celebration to mark a milestone in the history of the Prince's Trust Football Initiative.

The Football Initiative, which is funded by the Premier League and the Professional Footballers' Association, has helped 25,000 young people over 18 years and Campbell and Salako joined a panel offering advice to recent participants in the programme.

"It is a massive figure and we are hoping that it continues to grow and get bigger,” said Campbell, a Prince’s Trust ambassador who spoke about his experiences of a Barclays Premier League career that includes Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland and Cardiff City.

"It's a great scheme. Football is all about the community and can be a career for many people that maybe are struggling in their life. It's always important to help people out when they are down. In the community that I grew up in, that's what people did.

"It surprises me how effective football is in engaging young people. Speaking about some of the things in my background the young people might be able to relate to and if my take on things can help at least one person today, that's a good feeling to have."

The panel also heard from 21-year-old Emmanuel Nwanze, a former Luton Town footballer who thought his career in the game was over because of injury but now works as a community coach for the Crystal Palace Foundation after coming through a Football Initiative course.

"Emmanuel was a joy to listen to and an inspiration," Salako said. "You realise you are so close to slipping off the right path and getting into a lot of trouble. If you can get rid of the negative effects on your life, and get a positive outlook, then it's very powerful."

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John Salako and Fraizer Campbell relayed their experiences to Football Initiative participants

The Football Initiative uses the power of football to engage vulnerable young people, helping them develop their confidence, motivation and team working skills as well as giving them the qualifications that can provide momentum into work, education or training.

There are two parts to the initiative, the Get Started With Football project, which gets clubs engaging young people in a week-long course to increase employability levels, and the Fairbridge scheme, which reaches the most at-risk young people, with clubs supporting a one-to-one programme.

Angel O'Dwyer has just completed her Get Started with Football course at Palace and the 16-year-old says it has opened a lot of doors for her.

"I was finding it hard to stay in school because of my behaviour and my attitude to learning," O'Dwyer said. "I wouldn't have thought I would be standing here with loads of people at this event if the Prince’s Trust and Palace had not given me this opportunity.

"It's changed me. It's made me more positive. If it wasn't for this I would probably be one of the people out there causing trouble for no reason and not getting as much out of life that I should.

"If you are offered the chance to take this course, take it. It's not just the qualifications you get, it's the amazing people that help you. It's a great experience."

Crystal Palace are one of 40 Premier League and Football League clubs working with the Prince's Trust on the Football Initiative, with 170 footballers offering motivation and encouragement by meeting participants in the programme.

Palace's Foundation have been running their scheme for the last four years, with about 150 people coming through in that time.

"It gives us an opportunity to engage with those that are really disadvantaged and disfranchised, the type of people who need to be motivated and inspired," said Soye Briggs, community development director at Crystal Palace FC Foundation.

"There's huge youth unemployment at the moment and anything that can be done to improve skills and life chances is something that we want to be involved in."

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