'I am more than capable of making a difference': The young men ensuring their voices are heard this election

On a football pitch in Cardiff, a group of young men are getting ready to train.

But the astroturf in the heart of Grangetown isn't just a place where goals are scored and tackles are made. It's somewhere the teenagers here can talk among friends and for Myles, Matteo and Nawab, having their voices heard is extremely important.

They'll all be hoping their opinions will be listened to when they head to the ballot box on May 6.

This will be the first time all three have been able to vote in a Welsh Senedd Election as Myles and Matteo are both 17 while 23-year-old Nawab has recently moved to Wales to study sports therapy at university.

They feel they now have the opportunity to have their voices heard by the people in power, who make decisions that affect their lives.

Do the group of friends feel like their views are listened to at the moment?

"Not at the moment no, but hopefully they will eventually," said Myles.

"People think because we're young we don't have an opinion or we're not mature enough. But I think if they asked us we'd probably understand."

Nawab agreed and said people in power could "do a better job" of listening to what young people care about.

"I feel like it's in the back of their minds but they won't really put it out there," he said.

"When it comes to actually speaking out for us, it's not 100% and I feel like they should do a better job for us."

Myles believes people his age are often viewed as not mature enough to vote, but he disagrees.

They're hopeful that the fact 16 and 17 year olds can now vote in Welsh Senedd elections will help bring about change.

"It's good because people my age or younger can finally have their opinion heard and help decide something," Matteo said.

"It's good for the community because we can prove we have our opinions as well and we can help change society."

"I'm very happy to be voting," Myles said.

"I hope the government takes into consideration what I'm saying and they'll be more jobs and opportunities in my area."

Matteo is excited to vote for the first time, having just turned 17.

And better employment prospects is something they all say is needed in their community.

"There's no jobs for older people, so I don't think there's jobs for me either," Matteo said, through a half-laugh.

Myles agreed that he feels at a disadvantage when it comes to employment. He said: "Me personally being young, I don't have the same opportunities as people who have had more experience.

"Young kids coming up like me who can't get a job, they choose gang violence, they choose to go into selling drugs because they feel like it's an easy way of making money and that leads them down a life of crime."

Matteo added that it's easy for people his age to find themselves in a situation like that because "there's really nothing else to do."

"Especially in this community," he said.

"There's loads of people involved in gangs and maybe drug dealing and stuff like that and it's not the best environment to be around"

Nawab said he and his friends ask what if they could impact what decisions are made by having their voices heard.

For Nawab, coming from an area of London where he says gang violence is a big problem, the issue is at the forefront of his mind. He believes everyone has the right to feel safe where they live and "be confident to come out of their home".

"There's a lot of violence going on," he said.

"I am aiming to reduce that with my voice to help the government to take into consideration what people are actually going through on the streets

"You should want to be somewhere where you feel safe and part of a community."

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Football is an important outlet for the three friends and has been something they've missed during the pandemic.

"They locked up the pitches and we couldn't get on and play football," said Matteo.

He added that he and his friends just wanted "to have fun" and "take their minds off" the pandemic.

The boys think more should be done to create free, communal spaces - like the pitch in Grangetown - to help young people cope with their mental health.

"We've been locked up in our houses, we want to come out and clear our minds," said Nawab.

"Lots of people's mental health has dropped down because they can't really go out and enjoy the things they love.

"Especially during the lockdown period, with no incomes coming in, this is the best place people can go to take their minds off things. Especially kids our age."

From more football pitches to better job opportunities, Myles, Matteo and Nawab hope their views will be taken seriously by whoever claims power after May 6.

Nawab said: "Hopefully the government listens to what I'm saying now and takes into consideration the future of other people's lives and young kids' futures as well.

"It's up to them to really take the first step, we've done our part, now it's up to them".