A youth charity in southeast London that uses the power of sport is running free football sessions to help improve the lives of children.
Sports Fun 4 All was set up by founder and CEO Kieran Connolly in September 2016 after he realised a lack of football coaching for young people who were not part of organised football teams.
Kieran and his team now run free weekly football sessions in Bellingham, Catford, Crystal Palace, Downham, Deptford, Eltham, Hither Green, and Honor Oak.
Kieran had previously worked on the Kickz Programme at Downham Leisure Centre and attended the gym, where he saw an unused astroturf in an area with high levels of deprivation.
He soon created two football projects at Bellingham Green and Downham Leisure Centre, funded through Lewisham Assembly Funding, and due to the success of both projects, they continued once the funding was finished.
The Bellingham Green Project moved to Goldsmiths Community Centre, but after much success in the first few weeks, the football club outgrew this and moved to Forster Memorial Park in April 2017.
In June 2017, Sports Fun 4 All started its Sunday session and has run ever since.
Kieran added: “My favourite thing about my role is making a real tangible difference in young people’s lives in the same area I grew up in, close to my heart.
“I was born in South London and have lived in Lewisham all my life.
“Growing up, my passion was football, which helped shape the man I am today. I want to allow young people to play football outside of football teams and provide access to expensive facilities they can’t access.
“Alongside this, I am passionate about giving the young people mentoring from our coaches, who are positive role models as they have come from the same community as our participants and made a success of themselves.”
All the coaches at Sports Fun 4 All grew up in southeast London, which Kieran says means they “understand” the issues young people are going through living in an area with high deprivation.
Kieran added: “Our coaches can build strong relationships with the young people because of this, which means they keep attending, and we can make more of a meaningful impact in their lives due to the longevity we get to work with them.”
Due to the cost-of-living crisis, Kieran says there has been an increased demand for his services as parents do not have the money to put their children in paid activities, so they head to Sports 4 All as the sessions are free.
The sessions provide a “safe space” where strong role models mentor them so they can aspire to be liked and set an excellent example of what they can achieve in the same area they have grown up in.
Kieran said: “Sports Fun 4 All’s weekly football sessions combine football coaching and youth work to provide a positive diversionary activity for young people.
“We use the power of football as the hook to bring the young people in, and then we can work on their social, physical, and mental development.”