Participants from Foundation 92’s Street Soccer Academy got the chance to play at the London Stadium in the Football For Good Trophy.
They reached the tournament final, which was played on the main pitch of the stadium that hosted the London 2012 Olympics and is now home to West Ham United, where they lost 3-1 to Chelsea FC Foundation.
Foundation 92’s Ahmed Abdi won the Football For Good Golden Boot award for scoring eight goals in the tournament.
The five-a-side competition was held on Sunday, 19 November, to mark the inaugural Football For Good Day – a Commonwealth-wide celebration of the sport’s ability to change lives for the better.
The players were 18 to 30-year olds, who were homeless or at risk of homelessness by not being in education, employment or training, and they represented the professional football club community organisation where they recently completed a Street Soccer Academy course.
The ten-week personal development course, devised by the Street Soccer Foundation, uses football as a catalyst to engage participants in positive mindset training, mentoring support, football coaching and employability workshops.
Teams from ten Street Soccer Academies took part in the Football For Good Trophy, with group stage and semi-final matches held on the London Stadium’s Community Pitch, before the two finalist teams took to the turf of the stadium’s main pitch to play the final under the floodlights.
In the group stages, Foundation 92 beat Leicester City in the Community 6-0, West Ham United Foundation 3-0 and Chelsea FC Foundation 1-0 before drawing their final match with Liverpool’s LFC Foundation 0-0.
They went on to beat Sunderland AFC’s Foundation of Light on penalties in the semi-finals to reach the final, which was live streamed to a global audience online.
Keith Mabbutt, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Street Soccer Foundation, said: “This very first Football For Good Day has achieved precisely what we set out to showcase. It has been a day where we have seen young people gather from literally all over the world, interacting together and encouraging everyone else and championing each other’s endeavours.
“While there could only be one winning team on the pitch, everyone playing had already won by committing to the Street Soccer Academy programme.
“Some of those playing have been through very difficult situations in their lives, but they’ve kept coming back week after week to their academy and showed that desire to complete the course, and as such I’m proud and grateful that we’ve been able to provide them the opportunity to play at the iconic London Stadium on Football For Good Day as a reward for their fantastic endeavours.
“Our very first Street Soccer Academy was in partnership with the West Ham United Foundation back in 2015, so to hold this special inaugural event at the London Stadium has personal significance to us as a charity as well. And I’m thrilled we’ve delivered on a day that has unquestionably become a true platform to inspire, to encourage countries across the world to use the global number one sport as a true force for good.”
Foundation 92 team member Leroy Puvitanda Kakokhe said: “The course gives us all something to focus on besides what is going on in our personal lives at the moment.
“The football academy and whole programme is doing a good job because it is bringing us together as one – not only the football aspect, but also regarding mental health and how we should live with and interact with one another.
“It has created a beautiful community.”
His team-mate Robert Maritiwtishi said: “Playing football motivates me to socialise with others and separates me from the troubles in my personal life.”
Phil Hughes, Foundation 92 Street Soccer Academy coach, said: “The Street Soccer Academy programme has been valuable in providing a good way for the participants to socialise with their peers in a positive environment and it allows them to gain skills to work towards something huge – competing in the London Stadium.
“This has given the participants something to look forward to and allows them to enhance their growth opportunities in the UK.”
Alongside the football tournament, GAME hosted one of the very first EA Sports FC 24 gaming tournaments, in partnership with Microsoft, in an Xbox arena set up for participants inside the London Stadium.
The final was won by Danny Neal, from Leicester City in the Community, in a 5-4 victory over Jack Matthews, of Everton in the Community – winning a brand new Xbox for himself and winner’s trophy.
Nick Arran, Managing Director for GAME said: “It was a privilege to support Football For Good Day at the London Stadium and the event was even more successful than we could have hoped.
“As expected, the esports tournament was thrilling to watch and the opportunity to support young people in need of a leg up in life was deeply humbling.
“Community is our lifeblood here at GAME and we would like to thank all those who made the day such a special event.”
The Football For Good initiative is the brainchild of Keith Mabbutt and was launched by the Street Soccer Foundation earlier this year in support of the Commonwealth’s 2023 Year of Youth, which is celebrating 50 years of the Commonwealth Youth Programme.
Baroness Patricia Scotland, Secretary General of The Commonwealth, said: “Sport is one of the most dynamic and influential ways to allow our young people to enhance their health and opportunity, but also to learn about partnership, fairness, and bringing people together for peace. This is Football For Good.
“Football for peace and development, and the enhancement of unity across the Commonwealth.”
Layne Robinson, Head of Social Policy and Development at The Commonwealth Secretariat, added: “The Commonwealth chose Football For Good as a partner for the Year of Youth because this year, we are celebrating what young people can contribute in the world, and there’s no better thing to connect young people than sports.
“The top sport in the world is football, so it’s natural we would want to involve sports and football in our Year of Youth activities.”
The event was live streamed from the London Stadium to a global audience online and the coverage featured films from similar football events celebrating the sport’s positive impact in some of the other 56 Commonwealth member countries.
The teams that took part in the Football For Good Trophy were from Street Soccer Academies held at West Ham United Foundation, Chelsea FC Foundation, Sheffield United Community Foundation, Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, Hull City’s Tigers Trust, Everton in the Community, Sunderland FC’s Foundation of Light, Leicester City in the Community, Liverpool’s LFC Foundation and Salford City’s Foundation 92.