Young people and police come together for football fun

Mick Ferris
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One hundred and ninety young footballers from all over the county braved the wind and rain on Saturday to take part in KickOff@3, a tournament organised by Essex Police.

The 19 teams faced off in two 7-a-side competitions for 13 to 14-year-olds and 15 to 16-year-olds at the EJA ground in Great Baddow.

KickOff@3 is a charity initiative founded in 2017 by Met police officer Michael Wallace and youth worker Ashley Levien to help build relationships between young people and the police, and promote well-being and inclusion through sport.

The 15 to 16-year-olds tournament was won by Allsorts Allstars – a mixed team of boys and girls who are school friends from Canvey and Benfleet. They beat the former champions Kingswood Blues 3-0.

The 13 to 14-year-olds crown went to Goal Diggers from Braintree who triumphed against Chelmsford’s Coaching Champions on penalties.

Maldon Saints vs Gold Diggers

All competitors were given a medal for taking part, with trophies for the winning teams presented by Deputy Lord Lieutenant Stephen Bennet and High Sheriff of Essex Simon Brice.

Earlier in the day Michael Wallace, Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington and Louise Voyce from tournament partners Active Essex addressed the players to emphasise the unifying power of sport.

Detective Superintendent Claire Talbot led the organising team of Chief Inspector Sharn Taylor, Sergeant Anne Bray and Sergeant Simon Miah. She said that despite the weather, she was delighted to see so many youngsters enjoying themselves:

“It’s been an amazing event to bring so many young people together from across the county to engage with our officers. It’s important that we build that confidence in young people to talk to police officers so they can come to us if they need anything.”

Det Supt Talbot added that sport can bring people together in a way that other forms of engagement can’t.

“We’ve had teams here who can’t speak English, but the power of sport is that is doesn’t matter what language you speak or where you’re from, it’s about getting involved.

“Some of the young people here today might want to become police officers. We have Olivia Smith here today who’s a police officer and professional footballer – it’s giving people role models and people they can look up to and think ‘Maybe I could that’.”

Senior winners, the Allsorts Allstars

Stuart Long is CEO of ATF (Achieve, Thrive, Flourish). They work with young people in deprived areas of south to raise aspirations and increase social cohesion though initiatives including sports coaching.

He said: “There is sometimes mistrust (of police) with a lot of our young people. Today we’ve been able to bring a number our young people who are in our parks three of four times a week and they’ve now linked up with their local officers. You can see those relationships building. It’s really valuable for us.”

Changing Lives’ star player on the day was Yaya, who’s originally from Chad. He lives in Harlow with some of his teammates and is currently studying at Harlow College.

Yaya and his teammates had an impromptu game with officers between fixtures and he said he’d consider a career with the force when he’s older.

“It’s been amazing,” Yaya said. “We played with Essex Police and everyone was very friendly. I’m really glad today as we’ve enjoyed meeting other people from different areas who’ve joined together.”


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