'This can help kids understand they have a choice'

23 Nov 2015

Palace Foundation coach Emmanuel Nwanze explains how Prince's Trust programme helped him

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When the Prince’s Trust Football Initiative celebrated its 25,000th person coming through the programme at Selhurst Park last week, as well as meeting Fraizer Campbell and John Salako, the young people who have just completed the programme also heard from Emmanuel Nwanze.

What the 21-year-old told them was just as important as the advice from Campbell, the Palace forward and Salako, the former winger now a coach at Selhurst Park.

Nwanze, a former Luton Town player, spoke to about how the initiative helped him to choose the right path in his life.

"I grew up in Tottenham and life was rough. A lot of my friends were in and out of prison and it wasn't nice. I had my fair share of obstacles and problems. I had to make a choice because I could have gone down that path.

"The moment I decided to change was when I was 14. One of the boys I was hanging around with just came of prison and said, “Emmanuel there's no point in being with us, you are better than this. Just go ahead and concentrate on your football."

Emmanuel Nwanze tells his story to participants from the Prince's Trust Football Initiative

"That's when I said to myself, 'I am not part of this life, I want to be doing something else.'

"I had to realise that I had to work hard. Through that, my mind started to switch on and everything started to change. Slowly, but gradually. Eventually I stopped associating myself with those type of people.

"I was at Luton Town as a player, training full time, and that's what I wanted to do, it was my dream. I went to Welling United and in 2014 I tore a tendon in my knee and I have been out ever since.

"I heard about the Get Started With Football Programme and I thought, ‘Why not give it a go?’ The course was taken by Crystal Palace Foundation coaches and at the end of it, I was asked if I wanted to volunteer for them.

"When I took my first session, everything changed. I loved it. It was second nature. Everything that I learnt from my time at Luton I put out on the pitch and it made me feel good about myself when the kids were taking in what I told them.

"When I was young I didn't have anyone to push me and for me to help someone else who was in my situation was amazing. I am so grateful I took part in the Football Initiative, it has changed my life.

"If I didn't chose this path, who knows? I could have been in the same jail that my friend was. I feel blessed to be here and to reach out to other young kids because they need to understand that we all have a choice. Hopefully they can make that right choice.

"It was amazing to speak to the young people at the celebration event. Hopefully they have listened and hopefully they can act upon it. I am grateful to Crystal Palace and the Prince’s Trust for helping me out and putting me on the right path."

About the Football Initiative

  • The Prince's Trust Football Initiative began 18 years ago and has helped 25,000 young people
  • The programme is funded by the Premier League and the Professional Footballers' Association
  • 40 Premier League and Football League clubs are involved in the scheme
  • The iniative engages young people out of education, employment or training and helps increase their levels of employability

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