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15/6/2020 10:24 am  #1

Report from the Times - in full

At Tooting and Mitcham Football Club in south London, there are rarely second chances. Normally, there are third, fourth and even fifth ones.
“Our process is not realistic because we give players seven chances and it’s not like that in the world,” says joint manager Cornelius Nwadialor. “But we just want to see them win and give them opportunities.”
The club plays in the Isthmian League South Central Division and has become a success story as much for its vital work in the community as for its ability to turn a handful of local boys into professional footballers. Their site, which has three pitches, also boasts a children’s zone, educational suites and a village hall, which can be hired for weddings and funerals. A food hut sells local Caribbean food, a big hit with visiting away teams.
“Other clubs have got the facilities but they don’t use them for the community,” Nwadialor says. “That’s what we do differently: we go the extra mile.” He also speaks proudly of the club’s diversity: “We’ve got different ages, backgrounds, religions, sexualities, everything. That’s why, when people come around the club, they are wowed by it and what we’re trying to do.”
Nwadialor and his fellow joint manager, Ashley Bosah, are part of that vision. “Ash and I see it when we go to shake opposition managers’ hands: they’re shocked to see two young black managers,” he says.
The issue of diversity in football management came under the spotlight last week when Raheem Sterling spoke about the inequality between opportunities offered to black managers. “There’s Steven Gerrard, your Frank Lampards, you have your Sol Campbells and you have your Ashley Coles,” he said. “All had great careers, all played for England. . . they’ve all respectfully done their coaching badges to coach at the highest level and the two that haven’t been given the right opportunities are the two black former players.”
Bosah and Nwadialor hope they can inspire the next generation of coaches
Nwadialor, 37, says he agrees “100 per cent” with Sterling’s comments. “It is sad when you look at these legends like Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell. It is disheartening. If your role models can’t make it, what chance do you have?”
“With black players on that level speaking about it, we can only hope that it picks up momentum and it drives the conversation,” says Bosah, 33. “I’m hoping that will stir up change. I think people coming up behind us, especially the young people we work with, can see ‘Ashley and Cornelius are doing it, then surely we can do it’. It’s not every day you see a black person in the role we are.”
They are more than just managerial role models to the players they coach, they are mentors, too. “We’ve got a number of players that are still in education, going to uni, college, doing an apprenticeship,” says Nwadialor. We’ve got players that are coming out of prison and play with a tag and this is a haven where the police know, OK, they’re at Tooting, they’re good. Success for us is not only about making pros, it’s about players going on and doing something with their life.”
It wasn’t always like this. “When we first started, we had players coming in with swords longer than my arm, kitchen knives,” he says. “You were wondering whether they were coming for war or coming to play football. I see that as a success: it’s gone from us searching bags to us actually trusting players. Now, all the players consider themselves family, protect and look after themselves. It’s a haven; a place where they can come for two or three hours and know they are going to be safe.”
In recent weeks, the support that Nwadialor and Bosah offer their players has become more important than ever as the club has been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Sometimes, in the morning, I am literally picking up the phone and calling people to get them out of bed,” says Bosah.
“The support structure around who they are as people has gone out the window. It does affect them, it affects their confidence, they become fearful, unsure about themselves. Those are some of the conversations I didn’t think I’d be having as a coach.”
They have hosted video calls, set fitness challenges, and encouraged players to send reports from their fitness tracker apps. “Those who struggled with it, I knew something was happening so I’d just follow up with a phone call, really understand where their hearts and minds are at, see where you can inspire them to want to do something.”
When the news came out that they can begin training in groups of six outdoors, the WhatsApp group went wild. “They’ve been fantastic,” says Nwadialor. “As a generation, we’ve never gone through something like this before. They’re desperate to play.”


15/6/2020 4:02 pm  #2

Re: Report from the Times - in full


I started out with nothing and I've still got most of it left !

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