Football can be a great leveller, says Leeds youth worker Rod Christopher, who wants to give something back to his community.
He has launched a new community group in his spare time, teaching soccer to hard-to-reach youngsters and providing skills to encourage members to look for work, training or education.
Football Association (FA) qualified coach Rod runs Football Focus for youngsters aged 17 to 22 – from Seacroft, Gipton, Oakwood, Cross Gates and beyond – with the help of a group of volunteers.
Rod has worked for Leeds United and Manchester United’s coaching teams, as well as for Leeds Sports Development and the Bobby Charlton Soccer School.
Leeds United fan Rod, from Seacroft, also works as a youth worker for Leeds City Council in Gipton and Harehills.
He said: “The football is about getting youngsters off the street and giving them something constructive to do. Playing five-a-side or eight-a-side soccer keeps people fit and its competitive.
“I repeatedly hear from young people that they feel they have nothing to do. Yes, there are youth clubs, but not as many as people need.
“Soccer is also a great tool to break down barriers. We want to support people into getting into work, education or training, and using their skills and improving confidence.
The Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football campaign is also being focussed on during the new sessions.
The group meets at the Fearnville Astroturf pitch every Thursday from 5pm until 7pm, where a football tournament and matches are held, with a medal presentation at the end.
Other benefits include home and away tournaments, refereed matches, five-a-side league teams, careers and CV support, coaching skills, competitions, volunteer opportunities and coaching education.
The project is funded by the England Footballers’ Foundation, with support from Sported Funding and Onside Sports, who are already a well-established football project in East End Park.
Playing ability is not an issue. Any participant aged 17 to 22 is welcome, from any area of Leeds, particularly those not in employment, education or training and living in Seacroft.
Rod added: “We are about group work, support and having a good time together.”
To find out more, call Rod Christopher on 07519 440938 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org