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Football league kicks off with thrilling victory

The St Christopher’s All-Blacks football team have moved to a new league to try and conquer another football competition in London. Their new season kicked off this week with a brilliant start.

A few years ago, St Christopher’s started inviting young people from across the London services to get together on a Friday afternoon and pay some football in the park. Things started slowly and for many months there was just a handful of players – it was mainly staff braving the elements and pairing up with other park-going football enthusiasts to have a game.

Then, things gathered momentum as more people attended the weekly sessions. From this the St Christopher’s All-Blacks were born and entered their first five-a-side league in December 2015. After a lot of grit and determination they won their first championship title and have been playing in competitive leagues ever since.

Having played competitively in North London for the last few years they were keen to face some new teams and challenges south of the river. In 2017 they won their first mini seven-a-side league finishing unbeaten – and they are hoping that this is just the beginning of their footballing success in South London. The pressure was on for them to show the same skill, talent and commitment on the field once the new season started.

Finally, it was time for the All-Blacks to get back on the pitch. They kicked off their new season with a convincing 6-1 win, including a Harry Kane-esque performance from one young person, who secured the man of the match award with a fine hatrick​.

However, winning games and trophies are not the only positives to come out of the All-Blacks team. Running the football sessions has always been about much more than just getting fit, scoring goals and winning cups. It has been an opportunity to develop friendships, learn how to resolve conflict, communicate and work hard together to achieve something.

 

Social pedagogy in action

One of biggest successes of the last season was successfully welcoming young people from a children’s home as regular participants for the first time. It can be an intimidating environment for the younger players, entering what can be a fairly boisterous environment, so it showed confidence from the younger boys and warmth from the existing older players. The team now includes residents from children’s homes, 16+ supported housing and young people who have since moved out of St Christopher’s homes.

St Christopher’s football has consistently provided weekly training sessions for three years and played in a league for the last two. It’s provided wide and valuable opportunities for learning for the staff volunteering their time to run it as well as the young people playing. It’s rare that the young people in many of our homes are involved in something, especially in terms of leisure, that has such permanency, and some of our current footballers have been involved since the very start. Some of the original players still come along to take part, or cheer on their fellow All-Blacks from the side-lines​.

Alex, who works in our participation team and manages the All-Blacks, said: “It was a real honour for the football to be recognised by the organisation in the 2017 London staff conference, when we won one of the awards for best example of social pedagogy in practice. We want you all to know that since then, the momentum has continued. It’s a challenge running something that involves people outside of St Christopher’s, but it’s a true embodiment of social pedagogy – understanding the relational aspects of all our young people’s lives, that we can involve ex-residents, friends and family members.”

Congratulations to the All-Blacks and we look forward to hearing about your future victories in the league!

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