‘If you don’t do your homework, you don’t play’: Youth football club taking kids off the street wins league unbeaten

A youth football club set up a year ago with the aim of taking kids off the streets to avoid “gang culture” has romped to its first league trophy.

Rise United under 14s, set up in June 2021, has won the London County Saturday Youth Football League, going unbeaten in 15 games.

The club’s manager, Fred Daniel, said the club was set up to “get kids off the streets” and the results were down to the discipline they instilled in the players.

Rise United celebrate their one year anniversary with head coach Simon Bonfiglio (Picture: Rise United)

Mr Daniel said: “The main purpose of getting this club together, if you look at the rising crime rate for kids in South-east London, it has been so high the past six, seven years.

“So taking kids off the streets was our main goal and engaging them in a sport like football.”

Mr Daniel, who is a community leader and former chairman of the London Bridge housing association until retirement, said he lost a cousin to violent gang crime, and his friend lost a son.

I felt these are guys who could have done better in their life if they didn’t go into gangs, if they didn’t go into all this silly behaviour,” he said.

When the club was created last year, about 70 children came to the trials, of which only 18 could be selected.

The club train at City of London academy in Lynton Road, Southwark, and play their home games in Kidbrooke, Greenwich.

But Mr Daniel said they ensured all the children had a chance to play to join a club by contacting neighbouring clubs and asking them to give them a chance.

“We couldn’t leave them on the streets,” Mr Daniel said.

The success of the club, which also saw the under 15s come second in their league, is based in teaching them “respect and discipline”.

Outstanding players with their awards certificates and gift cards vouchers (Picture: Rise United)

Mr Daniel said: “We have to make them understand and listen, there’s hope for them.

“We believe that if they listen, and we mentor them very well, they might not make it in football but they might make it in another discipline. 

“I want to see of them become lawyers or doctors. We don’t want a situation where they’re on the wrong side of the law.

“Some I have to be honest with you, some never wanted to change because they have been all screwed up into gang culture and all the stuff. We did our best and gave them up to three times but some had to go, we include in our club proper discipline.

“We make sure that the schools affiliate to us. If you don’t do your homework, you don’t play. If you are a truant and causing trouble in school, you’re not part of our club. So we are very strict with discipline.”

Further proof of the tight ship run by Rise United is the number of players who are succeeding in football, with one player signed for Leyton Orient, one invited to Tottenham FC for a trial, two on trial for Millwall FC and six on trial with Ipswich Town FC.

Pictured top: Rise United under 14s celebrate winning the league (Picture: Rise United)




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