West Ham United first-team duo Danny Ings and Ben Johnson made a trip to the Club’s Foundation in Beckton recently, to meet a handful of youngsters involved with the Moore Family Foundation (MFF) and get stuck into some exciting activities.
Established in the late, great West Ham and England captain Bobby Moore’s memory by his daughter Roberta Moore, the MFF provides life-changing opportunities for young people aged 10-18 across east London and Essex, specifically those whose mainstream schooling has broken down or who have become disengaged with education.
Ings and Johnson were introduced to Year 10 and 11 students from London East Alternative Provision, who receive bespoke mentoring and undertake sports qualifications once a week through the MFF. Together, they then engaged in a blind football drill designed to demonstrate the importance of communication and teamwork, before sharing some of their experiences in a valuable Q&A session.
Ings, who started his career in the lower leagues at AFC Bournemouth and Burnley before establishing himself in the Premier League, said: “It’s been a really fun and valuable day. We started on the pitch, which was challenging and quite competitive in the end!
“The blind football was a good tool to highlight the importance of communication, which is key in football but also in all walks of life. The activity was a good, interactive eye-opener, and then I think we all took a lot out of the conversation we had as a group, where we discussed recovering from setbacks and making key decisions.”
Hammers Academy product Johnson added: “It was great to meet the young people who are at a difficult stage in their lives and trying to work out what’s best to do next.
“If it wasn’t for football, I’m not sure what road I would’ve have gone down, so it was nice to be able to share some of the difficult experiences I’ve gone through and hopefully help them on their way.”
Thalia Lewis, one of the students involved in the activation with Ings and Johnson, has achieved better-than-expected progress in her Sports Leaders qualification since joining the MFF scheme this academic year, and she also attributes a new-found love for playing the game to her enrolment on the programme.
While Lewis is determined to use the knowledge passed on by Ings and Johnson to further her achievements going forward, Cormac Hanrahan, Education Manager at West Ham United Foundation, knows all too well about the impressive ability the Club’s badge holds in being able to break through and increase the likelihood of young people following a positive pathway.
Lewis said: “Events like this are really motivating. It was fun to meet the players and to play blind football with them, and then to take on their advice and hear about their experiences.
“They’ve both overcome a lot of challenges, and now I want to use what I’ve learned to help me on my journey in sport, to make sure I do well in what I’m most interested in.”
Hanrahan added: “It was great to see the players fully immersing themselves in these activities. They shared some really good stories, and I think one of the best takeaways is about coming back stronger from setbacks and communicating well to help yourself.
“Football is such a powerful tool and its lessons can be tailored to all walks of life, and trying to harness that to help these young people is what the Foundation and the MFF is all about. I’m sure they’ll all remember today for a long time.”