Football: the great equaliser

By Belinda

Repost from Breadwinners’ blog. Find the original article here.
Young people play football on a sunny day.

What image do you get when you hear “asylum seeking or refugee young person”? What about “Eton college student”. Do you get a different picture? You may have thought of lots of similarities too, such as young people doing their best to achieve a better future, albeit in quite different ways. Society spends a lot of effort allocating people to their expectations, but one place where everything is equalised is in sport.

Born with a passion for football, Martin from Breadwinners organised 35 young people, that are supported by charities such as Breadwinners, Hope for the Young and Gmax Trackstars, to go to Eton College for the day for a five-a-side tournament. Coming from all over London, young people gathered in Brixton for a bus ride to Windsor. Many didn’t know others in the group, but all came for their shared love of football and the chance to have a new adventure.

We arrived to a warm afternoon in Eton College, where an even warmer welcome awaited. The young players from London and Eton were mixed up, and teams allocated, then a swift negotiation of playing positions took place and they were on – everything other than the back of the net was off the agenda. After three hotly contested matches, there were many goals scored, a twisted ankle, a couple of AstroTurf-scraped knees, huge smiles, and hearts full of laughter and fun.

“I was so happy to be invited. It was a wonderful day. I love football. Sport gives a person qualities such as cooperation, respect and humility. I got to know new people, have fun with them and be part of a new community.” Yassir, Participant

It wouldn’t be Britain without tea and cake, so it was off to a beautiful Eton house garden to relax and chat with a cuppa. “You are on a path with an expected outcome, but you are the driver to decide where you end up”, said Mark from Gmax when he spoke to the group after tea (the speech also included orange kangaroos, but that’s a story for another day). He went on to encourage everyone there to stay open to meeting new people and experiences without expectation, to learn the most from them. He also spoke about the value of hard work, and after watching them all on the pitch today, I don’t think anyone in attendance is afraid of that.

Two young people in football kit post for a picture, smiling.

One young person I spoke to (after a serious discussion about cake) told me that he lacked confidence but knew that the only way to get it was to keep saying yes to new things and just do the best he could each time. He smiled when he told me that each time his ‘best’ seems to be getting better.

Young people get a lot of bad press these days, but each one I spoke to expressed respect, gratitude and best of all, empathy, and concern for others. We may well have been watching a future British Prime Minister on the football pitch today, but we don’t yet know which team they were playing on.

Alice Finta

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