Grassroots Football Club recognised by London Met and Black Police Association

It started with soldiers stuck in their flooded trenches, thinking of their loved ones and desperately wanting to bury their fallen brothers. It ended with opposing troops of British and German soldiers peacefully returning to their respective trenches after exchanging hugs, food rations, songs and beer. This was the Christmas Day Truce of 1914. Arguably, the most captivating story to come from the Truce was the famous football match that saw English and German soldiers defy orders not to befriend the enemy.  

Ballers Club enjoy presentation

Last Saturday, Ballers Club, winners of last month’s Kickoff@3 football tournament in memory of Daniel De-Gale were given a presentation ceremony by Kickoff@3, the Metropolitan Police and the Black Police Association, recognising the club’s achievement in the tournament. Ballers Club seek to engage vulnerable young people with the intention of diverting them from antisocial activities. From their base in the Dome football pitch, Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, the club offers up to 4½ hours a week of free football training. This helps boys perfect their craft and also teaches them the importance of staying in school and developing the right mindset to achieve the goal of becoming professional football players.  

Raymond Bascombe, Director of Ballers Club said, “Every Saturday we have on average around 40 – 50 players who attend our sessions. This benefits our community because we are giving many young boys, from the local areas an opportunity to become semi-professional or professional football players. The lads are being disciplined by building familiarity and friendships through the common goal of sport. I’ve seen boys from Peckham and Croydon become the best of friends through football. If this event wasn’t on, these guys would likely not be doing anything or doing something bad.”  

Left-back Oscar Walton, presented with a pair of Adidas football boots because of his attitude and dedication since joining the club eight months ago said, “If I wasn’t playing football I’d be home playing PS4.” 

Shae Cascoe-Rogers with Sargent Rob Godwin

With the drastic government cuts to youth services, Ballers Club and others like it are in high demand. Nisha Jackson started attending Ballers Club with her son Craig McClean because “football is his life” but she sees the sport as something which actually benefits both of them: it keeps Craig off the streets and away from danger thereby giving her peace of mind. Ms Jackson has called on other mothers to ensure their children are doing something constructive with their time.  

The current proliferation of postcode battle lines and knife crime has meant that Ballers Club, and in particular Raymond Bascombe have received much praise for their open-door approach. It is this that has brought together so many boys who ordinarily wouldn’t speak to boys outside their postcode normally viewed as their enemies. Tanisha Barbour mother of Nathaniel Barbour travelled all the way from Trinidad to London for a football trial. Ms Barbour views the football in London as very professional; so while Nathaniel is having trials in the capital, he is taking advantage of Ballers open-door policy and is practising with the club while he awaits news of his other trials.  

Labour Councillor for Crystal Palace Angela Wilkins was at Saturday’s presentation and said, “This is one of the most innovative and worthwhile projects I have seen.  It is much more complex than kicking a football. Funding is difficult but you just have to prioritise. This is not a massively expensive project, but it is being run in such a creative way that way that just a small resource will go a long way.” 

Community Police Sargent Rob Godwin presented the boys with certificates highlighting their work he said, “We need to build rapport with communities and when something goes wrong in that community we have the trust to start to make amends. So it’s about being open and transparent and when we have that trust we have an opportunity to come down on a Saturday morning to hand out some awards and show that most of us are supportive of the community.”

Ballers Club offers a sanctuary where lads who have a deep mistrust of the other can put aside their differences and enjoy a game of football, much as they did 104 years ago at that Christmas Day Truce. If you’d like to donate to Ballers Club, visit their JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ballersclub-community 

By Nigel Gordon 

Thursday 2nd August 2018 @ 23:58 

Copyright © 2018 Nigel Gordon