Music and football come together for Hackney Wick FC’s United Against Knife Crime Charity Match
A lot has happened with Hackney Wick FC, aka The Wickers, since Julie’s September 2015 interviewwith the club’s founder and absolute force of nature, Bobby Kasanga. Most recently, the club hosted a charity football match, United Against Knife Crime, on a hot summer’s evening at the London Stadium Community Track. The match brought together an all-star line-up of Rap and Grime artists to compete against the club in order to raise both awareness and funds for The Wickers Charity.
Grassroots at its finest
I must preface this by saying that I’m a passionate football fan and have a particular fondness for community and grassroots football, so attending the match was a real labour of love for me. It was a fantastic evening, with plenty of goals, a penalty shootout and an atmosphere that can only be described as festival-like and upbeat.
One of the best things about watching grassroots football is that you can be within inches of the action. Yes, your Chelsea, West Ham, Spurs and Arsenal may play prettier football, but there’s something really invigorating about being at the coalface and feeling the passion of the players, and this match gave all that and more.
As I headed to the ground, I was thinking about the weather, as it was quite a hot day. 25 degrees in the shade, not a cloud in the sky and gloriously beautiful, actually – if you happened to be hanging out at Olympic Park or sitting in a beer garden somewhere. Running around on a pitch in that heat for 90+ minutes, on the other hand, is hard work, and I really felt for the players. It didn’t seem to be an issue for either side though, and I was impressed with that.
Before the match and at halftime, Bobby and the players/artists were being interviewed by the press; ordinarily they would be cordoned off from the general public, but no, not these guys. Instead, they were happy to mix with the crowd, answer questions and have pictures taken, making time for everyone who approached them. It really added to the atmosphere, and drove home the point that this really IS a community club.
More than just football
Founded in 2015, the club has gone from strength to strength, and now boasts 16 youth teams – including girls’ teams – encompassing 160 youths, as well as two semi-pro adult teams with 70 members, and it’s just been announced that another adult team will be formed in the autumn. Quite an impressive track record. They also provide sessions for children with additional needs, so it can truly be said that HWFC are a completely inclusive club. Additionally, a female referee and lineswoman officiated at the Charity Match. Class!
What makes this club stand out is the fact that it’s about more than just football. There is a firm commitment to being a positive influence in the lives of the players and in the community generally, as well as a strong ethos of paying it forward through various volunteer activities.
The Wickers Charity
The club has also established The Wickers Charity, whose aim is to combat and tackle gun, knife and gang culture by providing a safe space for members to develop life skills and be mentored by and learn from positive role models. With increased reports of knife crime and gang activity – as I write this, the news is again talking about yet another tragic loss of life – the charity seeks to use preventative measures by implementing options that can deter young people from the dangers that surround them before it’s too late. They also provide talks in schools about peer pressure and antisocial behaviour, and hold health and wellbeing workshops.
They also run The Hub, which is open on Thursdays from 5.30 – 7.30pm and caters for 6 – 18 year olds. Sessions include educational workshops, mentoring and counselling as a means of advancing educational and employment opportunities, and pathways into work as well as recreation and leisure activities, all of which provide an alternative to entering a life of crime.
The Wickers Charity is enhancing community cohesion by offering an alternative to our youth and creating opportunities for them, educating and instilling positive values and growing positive young role models. That can only be good. Take a bow, Wickers – you do us proud.
Read Julie’s interview with Bobby Kasanga to learn about the inspiration and story behind HWFC here
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Images courtesy of Tod Kavonic