These awards highlight some of the amazing work carried out in football communities across the capital and the evening shared so many inspiring stories. Coaches spoke about the work they were doing to remove barriers to access football for people of all abilities and those from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds. We heard how they had been teaching children to tie shoelaces on their boots, how they had made female hygiene products widely available, how they had provided sports bra roadshows and how men have played a key role as champions for getting more women into referee and coaching roles at professional level. Clearly a great deal more to do to level the playfield field, but great to celebrate the progress!
Alongside professional football legend, Jermain Defoe, I had the pleasure of presenting the “Club of the Year Award” to R77 Soccer School. This group has made a remarkable impact progressing young and aspiring boys and girls from underprivileged backgrounds by providing a platform to guide players and push boundaries to achieve what they would not have previously imaged. Starting out with 9 coaches and 6 children, they have grown the club to include more than 150 children playing regularly and the club is not only teaching these young people how to positively express themselves on the pitch, but are also providing mentorship and pastoral care.
R77 Soccer School are based on Epping Forest land at Capel Road on Wanstead Flats, which is where so many professional footballing legends began their career, such as Jermain Defoe and David Beckham. They have worked hard to make this hub welcoming to all, allowing children of different ambitions to come together and develop in the game. They have seen success with players progressing to trials at academies, particularly opening up football opportunities in the South Asian community which surround Wanstead Flats.
R77 have instilled a mentality of supporting local charity work through running the #GlobalGameProject initiative, where the club and community come together to fundraise for the less fortunate through charity matches, individual fundraising and various dessert stalls. They have also fundraised over £32,000 and are working to set up a football academy in the Gambia in West Africa. If you would like to know more about R77 Soccer School, you can follow them on Instagram here or on Facebook here.
Sincere congratulations to all of the team at R77 who I am sure you will agree are very worthy recipients.
Epping Forest is proud to provide access to a wide range of sports and recreation facilities, such as walking and running, cycling, horse riding, angling, football, cricket and golf. In a recent assessment by Natural Capital Solutions, the value to society Epping Forest brings in recreation is estimated to be worth £35.7m and health £17.4m annually.