Hammers support homeless project

Michail Antonio and Adrian were on hand to support a Foundation initiative that is helping local homeless youngsters
Michail Antonio and Adrian were on hand to support a Foundation initiative that is helping local homeless youngsters back on their feet and into employment.

The duo visited the West Ham United Foundation’s Beckton facilities to learn more about the Street Soccer London project and offer the young participants a respite from, what for some, is a harsh reality.

Participants aged 16-24 years old, who have been identified as homeless, have embarked on a 12-week programme at the Foundation to rebuild their confidence and develop skills which will look to help them onto the jobs ladder.
Antonio, who has impressed since his arrival at the Boleyn Ground, was quick to praise the work of the Foundation and explain to the group that they have what it takes to overcome adversity with the right help.
“It’s a great achievement what they’ve managed to do so far and these kids definitely look up to players like us and are inspired to be like us,” said the No30. “So us being here showing our support hopefully gives them more of a drive and gives them that self-belief.
“It’s not easy to get the right opportunities in life but as long as you’re determined and willing to push yourself, it can be done.”
Speaking of his own journey from non-league to Premier League football, the former Tooting & Mitcham man told the youngsters that anything is possible if you take the opportunities given to you.
“We’re here to show our support and show that we care and that anything can be done. Especially someone like me who’s come from non-league football, they’ve still got time to achieve exactly what they want.”
The session saw the Hammers pair coaching the participants throughout a number of football drills, before joining an employability workshop to see their interview and CV writing skills in action.
One participant, Jodie Coombes, spoke about the power football has had in turning her life around.
 “Before I got into Street Soccer, I was homeless but managed to get through it through football. It’s kept me busy and kept me away from a lot of stuff. It’s been an honour meeting the players today, I’ve really enjoyed it.
“I love playing football, I love coaching, I love teaching other people and getting other people involved. I never thought I’d be this far along or achieve as much.
“I would hopefully like to play for West Ham Ladies one day. I’ve already spoken to Katie [Bottom] from the Ladies and she’s invited me to come down and get involved.”
Street Soccer London is one of a number of initiatives that the Foundation runs in order to help local young people find their path in life. However, Chief Executive Joe Lyons was particularly proud to be working with some of the community’s most vulnerable:
“West Ham United Foundation was approached by Street Soccer and it was an area we really wanted to engage with; working with the homeless community and with partners who had an expertise and specialism around it.
“It’s not just short-term intervention but a real long-term journey for our participants. Over the last 12 weeks we’ve run this pilot, the key was seeing their confidence grow. They have seen that whatever troubles they have elsewhere, here they can see people investing a lot of energy into their long-term development.
“For us, the long-term is about what they do next and where they’re going to be able to draw on these skills. Life is hard enough and to give them the skills, confidence and self-esteem to make their journey a little bit easier is the goal.”
Keith Mabbutt, Street Soccer’s founder, praised the support of the WHU Foundation in helping to touch as many lives in the local community as possible:
“We created a programme that uses the power of football and took it to the PFA, who recommended that we came to West Ham United Foundation to talk about a partnership and that’s how it all came about.
“It’s all about the individual in terms of what they want to get out of it and through the Foundation’s work, we can create long-term pathways, whether we move them into work experience, jobs, training, coaching or higher education and thankfully West Ham have been absolutely superb with that.”