George is off to the Palace!

West Ham United Community Sports Trust will have special representation at Buckingham Palace on Monday, as their very own grassroots hero George Chukwuma is to be honoured by HRH The Duke of Cambridge.

As part of the FA's 150th anniversary celebrations, 150 volunteers have been hand-picked for their outstanding service to football, each of whom will receive a medal from Prince William in a Palace ceremony.

Now a community sports development officer, Chukwuma began life at the Trust as a volunteer seven years ago, before rising through the ranks.

A dedicated and passionate mentor, the 25-year-old is held in the very highest esteem by his colleagues, just as he is by the children who reap the rewards of his continued hard work.

He told West Ham TV: "I'm so delighted that the Trust has nominated me. I'm lost for words! It's a shock to me, but they said I've been working so hard.

"Monday's going to be a fantastic event and I'm really excited about going, because I've never been to Buckingham Palace before. It should be a great experience and hopefully one that I'll really enjoy."

Chukwuma's celebrations, however, began rather earlier, with a visit to the Club's Chadwell Heath training ground on Friday. Joint-Chairman David Gold and Community patron Joe Cole were among a whole host of players and staff to personally congratulate Chukwuma, proudly showing off his coveted invitation to the Palace.    

George Chukwuma

Joint-Chairman David Gold meets West Ham's grassroots hero

A talented footballer in his own right, local lad Chukwuma has won many friends over the years for his commitment to the cause, rightly being held as a role model for kids and staff alike. 

He continued: "The coaches and the kids look at me and think, 'George has done this, maybe if I work as hard as George, then I can do the same.' So I am a father figure, of sorts, I'd say.

"I think the kids do see me as a role model, because I've helped so many, at all levels, take the next step in their development. I've tried to help all the kids as much as possible and hopefully I can keep pushing and helping many more in the Trust and local area too.

"I think it's very important that I give back to my local community because I was born and bred here, so I wanted to give back to the local kids."

George Chukwuma

Chukwuma marshals his troops at the Boleyn Ground

Friends and colleagues Timothy Lukwago and Josemar Santos were in no doubt that their right-hand man is fully deserving of the accolade.

"He's shown a lot of trust in me. I'm a senior coach now and I wouldn't be here without George," explained sessional coach Lukwago.

"He's so proud of what he does here. I'm very happy for him and I hope he goes onto even better things. Anything's possible with George. From what I can see, there's nothing that can hold him back. Even when people tell him he can't do it, he's the sort of person who will try to prove them wrong."

Sentiments echoed by lead coach Santos, with whom Chukwuma leads the Trust's Learning Academy pilot scheme, which is aimed at keeping teenagers in education while they receive regular football coaching sessions.

He said: "George has had a massive influence on Trust projects. To me, we always very work closely, and I see him as a brother. We've seen many generations come and go and it's almost like we're a little family.

"He's worked very hard to get his badges, he has never stopped going, always trying to get to the next level. He has worked very hard for that. Being able to be part of helping him achieve that has been great."

Ambitious and full of ideas, Chukwuma is thrilled with all that the Trust has achieved to date and has similarly high hopes for the future.

"The Trust has done brilliantly," he insisted. "At the moment we've got 53 sessions up and running, (that's Kicks and Premier League 4 Sport), so there are a lot of opportunities for kids to get involved. Whether it's Tower Hamlets, Newham or Barking and Dagenham, we've got plenty going on across the three boroughs.

"My vision for the Trust is to expand our projects, particularly Premier League Kicks. I've been working on that project from when I first started, it's like my bread and butter, so I really want that project to do well.

"I just want us to continue to grow as an organisation and to offer as many sessions as possible, so that the kids are really happy with the service and with our delivery."