Football match builds bridges with police to avert youths from life of crime

Police officers have taken part in a football tournament with young people from underrepresented groups in a bid to prevent them from a life of crime.

The game, which is part of the Kickoff@3 initiative, aims to build trust and engagement in the community.

The match was held at The Appleyard Sports Club in Sittingbourne, Kent.

Detective Inspector Vinny Wagjiani, Event Organiser, Kent Police said: "It's not only part of building that trust and bridging that trust but also trying to get the youths to see us as human beings so that when we're interacting with them, we're not these people in uniform that are a barrier to conversations.

"All we want is to try and help them shape their future to be the best it can be."

  • Detective Inspector Vinny Wagjiani, Event Organiser, Kent Police

Alia Wahab, participant, said: "You get these school talks about the police and then you get this image built in your head about how they are.

"I wasn't expecting the police to be here but seeing them engaging in stuff like this, football, I'm a bit relaxed.

"It's good to see them actually care about the people."

Kickoff@3 is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to inspire, motivate, engage and support young people from all backgrounds through the medium of sport and music.

It was set up in 2017 by Michael Wallace and Ashley Levien and has positively impacted hundreds of young people across various communities in the UK.

  • Michael Wallace, Metropolitan Police officer & co-founder and director, Kickoff@3

Michael Wallace, Metropolitan Police officer and co-founder and director of Kickoff@3, said: "We don't do this as a tick box exercise, it's for the longevity and supporting young people.

"Football is the seed, a lot of young people love football, it's a universal language, whether culture, religion, social background, ability, disability, it brings people together and from there it grows where you're able to have opportunities, you're able to educate and it's also about building relationships, making friendships.

"It originally started in London, in Croydon, and then we moved to Barnet, and then we took it nationally through the National Black Police Association to develop relationships across a lot of police forces.

"It gave us the opportunity to get the message across and that's where our own initiative, as two community members, as two volunteers, will help our young people."