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One hundred and ninety young footballers from all over the county braved the wind and rain on Saturday to take part in [email protected] - a tournament organised by our Positive Action team.
Nineteen teams faced off in 7-a-side competitions for 13 to 14-year-olds and 15 to 16-year-olds at the EJA ground in Great Baddow.
[email protected] is a charity initiative founded in 2017 by Met police officer Michael Wallace and youth worker Ashley Levien. It aims to build relationships between young people and the police, and promote physical and mental well-being and inclusion through sport.
Competitors included the south Essex youth charity ATF, a Colchester United Football in the Community side, and two teams of refugees and asylum seekers from Changing Lives in Harlow.
Braintree's Goal Diggers go on the attack against the Maldon Saints
The 15 to 16-year-olds tournament was won by Allsorts Allstars – a mixed team of boys and girls from Canvey and Benfleet who are school friends. They beat former champions the Kingswood Blues 3-0.
The 13 to 14-year-olds crown went to Braintree's Goal Diggers who triumphed over Chelmsford’s Coaching Champions on penalties.
All competitors were given a medal for taking part, with trophies for the winners presented by Deputy Lord Lieutenant Stephen Bennett and High Sheriff of Essex Simon Brice.
Earlier in the day, Michael Wallace, Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington and Louise Voyce from tournament partners Active Essex addressed the players to emphasise the unifying power of sport.
The Goal Diggers won the tournament for 13 to 14-year-olds
Detective Superintendent Claire Talbot led the organising team of Chief Inspector Sharn Taylor, Sergeant Anne Bray and Sergeant Simon Miah.
She said that despite the weather, she was delighted to see so many youngsters enjoying themselves.
“It’s been an amazing event to bring so many young people together from across the county to engage with our officers.
"It’s important that we build that confidence in young people to talk to police officers so they can come to us if they need anything.”
Officers showed off their skills in a friendly game against the Changing Lives teams
DS Talbot added that sport can bring people together in a way that other forms of engagement can’t.
“We’ve had teams here who can’t speak English, but the power of sport is that is doesn’t matter what language you speak or where you’re from, it’s about getting involved.
“Some of the young people here today might want to become police officers. We have Olivia Smith here who’s a police officer and professional footballer – it’s giving people role models and people they can look up to and think ‘Maybe I could that’.”
Yellow Door FC B from Canvey Island take on the Chelmsford City Whites
Stuart Long is CEO of ATF (Achieve, Thrive, Flourish). They work with young people in deprived areas of south Essex to raise aspirations and increase social cohesion though initiatives including sports coaching.
He said: “There is sometimes mistrust (of police) with a lot of our young people. Today we’ve been able to bring a number our young people along who are in our parks three of four times a week. They’ve now linked up with their local officers. You can see those relationships building. It’s really valuable for us.”
Changing Lives’ star player on the day was Yaya, who’s originally from Chad. He lives in Harlow with some of his teammates and is currently studying at Harlow College.
Yaya and his team had an impromptu game with officers between fixtures and he said he’d consider a career with the force when he’s older.
“It’s been amazing,” Yaya said. “We played with Essex Police and everyone was very friendly. I’m really glad as we’ve enjoyed meeting other people from different areas who’ve all joined together.”
Changing Lives' Yaya receives his team's player of the day award from Det Supt Claire Talbot