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Helping London youngsters

A game that began life in Uruguay back in 1930 is playing a part in helping unemployed youngsters in London to gain qualifications and find work.

Futsal is played in a five-a-side indoor football format. It was first played in South America but now worldwide and controlled by FIFA, the sport’s governing body. Its growing global popularity means it is expected to be included in the 2016 Olympics.

It forms the core of a new thirty-week programme of sport and education giving young people in the capital a chance to improve their prospects of a successful future.

The scheme is called “The F1 Sports Course” and Government funding means it is free to those taking part.

“The F1 courses offer a college education to both males and females aged between 16 and 19 who are not currently in any form of education, employment or training,” explained former basketball professional Mathew Lord.

Residential training courses

He is a director of Let Me Play, which organises residential training courses in a number of sports. It has teamed up with leading sports training provider Sportiv8 and Futsal UK, the country’s leading operator of Futsal services and arenas, to deliver the scheme.

“Youth unemployment recently hit the one million mark and nationally 21.9 per cent of 16 to 24 year olds are out of work” he added.

“We know that many young people become members of a gang because they want to feel part of a social group, a sort of a family. What we find is the F1 course provides a different sort of group for them; a more constructive group. They are provided with tracksuits and training tops and this helps them to feel part of a team.

“There’s also an incentive for them to turn up on time in the mornings. If they do they get a free breakfast and that’s a very attractive proposition for some of them.” Currently around 100 youngsters aged between 16 and 18 are taking advantage of courses at four London centres to gain qualifications.

No academic qualifications are required for entry, although entrants do need to have a good state of health and fitness.

Key role

Three days a week the youngsters attend one of the centres to receive a balance of academic work and practical training. Futsal plays a key role in attracting them onto the courses and retaining their interest.

“Teams from each of the four centres regularly play matches against each other and this is a key element in maintaining their enthusiasm for all aspects of the course,” according to Mathew Lord.

Frank Rodriguez, who is Managing Director of Futsal UK, which operates indoor Futsal arenas in Birmingham, Cardiff and Swindon, added “What we are doing is to support Government initiatives targeted at supporting important sections of our youth society.

“Not only does the course provide work experience and the discipline of attending on a regular basis but it also offers the opportunity for a variety of successful outcomes.

“They are young people who need help and support to make their way in life. I am proud of the fact that we are backing them with this scheme.”

Learning programmes

Russell Grocott is Managing Director of Sportiv8 which provides the learning programmes. “On the F1 course we use the same learning model that helps us train aspiring professional footballers,” he said.

“We use the power of Futsal to engage young people and encourage them to look at life in a different way. We show them that they do have the power to change and create awareness that even if they begin the day feeling negative they can learn to look at life in a different way.”

Those taking part in the courses can obtain a Level 1 City and Guilds certificate in Sport and also obtain a level 1 NVQ in sport and a level 1 qualification in personal and social development.

In addition they will receive a level 1 qualification in personal and social development, and gain qualifications in English, maths and computer skills.

Successful completion of the course means that in addition to qualifications they will have references to show prospective employers. Many will then continue their education to a higher level or find employment, many in the sport and leisure industry.

Quotes from youngsters taking part in the course:

"I actually enjoy this course, it's a lot different from college and it's much more relaxed and better".

Nathan Registe

"I like it as it's something I like doing keeps me focused.

Charlie Macaskill

"I can come, enjoy myself and learn at the same time".

Ishmail McCarthy-Davis

"It's a different way of interacting with kids on a different level of learning".

Shardrach Williams

"From the course I've gained a new perspective from football by doing futsal which is different however it helps improve in our fitness and skills and also it has helped me more with my coaching ability. I feel like I've improved so much. What I enjoyed about the course is making new friends, learning new things and improving on the pitch and off".

Omar Berjaoui

"From this course I have gained confidence and friendship. I enjoy pretty much everything, the fitness, the fun and the skills I have learnt".

Robyn Clark

Courses are held at The Fresh Youth Academy in London N19 (Archway and Tufnell Park); The Samuel Lithgow Youth Club in Camden; The Fulham Court Community Centre and The Young Adult Centre in Southall.

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