A crisp, sunny Sunday in Walthamstow, Mothers’ Day to be precise, but it’s the Football Beyond Borders family who are celebrating with an exhibition match and kit unveiling.
In an exciting new partnership, AFC Oldsmiths, a club founded in 2009, will be proudly joining FA founder members Wanderers FC in having Football Beyond Borders emblazoned across their new Hummel kits. Both clubs embody shared principles of inclusivity, fairness and the opportunity to be and feel better, principles upon which FBB itself was founded.
The initiative is supported by Hummel, who have provided the kits and supply training gear for FBB, a charity that works with disengaged young people across London and the south west, harnessing the power of the game to change lives.
The event featured a match between the two sides, a great match, with just enough spike to show that even a friendly like this matters to both sides; the Walthamstow-based AFC Oldsmiths eventually won 3-0 and took home the Community Cup.
But, as with everything FBB do, it’s more than just football that matters today. Pickles caught up with Jasper Kain, the founder and one of the co-directors of Football Beyond Borders, to find out more:
So, tell us a bit about Football Beyond Borders?
We’re an organisation that uses the power of football to engage with young people and help them learn. It’s about getting them to have their voices heard, building a sense of belonging and giving young people a framework, so they can feel supported and able to achieve their goals.
Where do you run these programmes?
It’s mostly London – we are currently developing a pilot in Cardiff and Bristol too – but our basis is around 20 projects in south and east London, largely in the classroom but with some community outreach work as well.
We also have an affiliation with the Wanderers, who are playing today, and a women’s programme called the Warriors. If a school are interested, then we can work with them.
So how does it work?
Usually it begins with a school saying, “We’ve got a group of boys who are pretty disengaged from learning, who are underachieving, and we don’t know what to do with them, but they love football.”
You don’t have to be good at football, either. We’ve got one lad who was in a programme who is now in the England U15s, and some who wouldn’t even make the Third XI. You just need a passion for the game.
Where did the idea for FBB come from?
I played a lot of football as a young person, but my education and my football were separate. I never had a sense that football could help my education. I was released from a professional club at 16, but prior to that, there was always this conversation about whether I would have to give up my education to play football.
When I was released I was distraught, and went on to university with no intention of playing football again. But, one thing led to another, and I was roped into it again; nine months later, I was captain of my university team and I started to think much more seriously about what football had done for me as a young person.
I realised football had given me a dream, a sense of aspiration. I also think football helped me appreciate diversity – my friendship group was very diverse and only really united by a love of football; if you loved football, nothing else about your background mattered.
I also realised that football had encouraged me to be disciplined; I knew I had to do my homework and engage in the classroom or my mum wouldn’t let me play.
I also think football creates safe spaces where people feel included.
So, we piloted a project at a school in Croydon that was massively underachieving, about 75% of the boys in their Year 7 football team were at risk of exclusion, and that was the model. It started as a homework club before football and then we took them on a football tour.
How do you get kids to buy into the idea that football develops learning away from the game?
It’s all about building a relationship with young people, between coach-educators and young people. Once you’ve got that rapport you can start to have some serious conversations about why the homework helps, why learning matters. Football is the vehicle.
We also focus on project-based learning, meaningful projects that are tangible. We do a module on match commentary, for example. We record them playing and then they commentate on themselves, learning about language and expression at the same time.
The education system doesn’t always relate particularly well to a lot of young people and their lives, especially if they’re quite resistant to the classroom anyway. We try to find ways that make learning relevant.
How did the partnership with Hummel come about and how does that help?
FBB has always had a very internationalist outlook: we’ve run projects in 13 different countries, including Palestine, Bosnia, and Syria; we’re the only UK-based side to have played in Syria.
We’ve always had this belief in football literally going beyond borders and I think Hummel is a very natural fit in terms of our philosophy, this idea that football is a very internationalist game – Hummel embodies those values. For us, they were a brand whose ethos chimed with our own.
We’re also growing as an organisation – we work with over 350 people a week and we need people to be able to play whatever the weather. Hummel are a great partner. Hummel support us, the Wanderers and AFC Oldsmiths, all teams who are using the power of football to transcend borders and change things for the better, which is what today is all about.