A County Durham teenager has been selected to represent England on the international stage this summer.
Leah, 17, who is a peer mentor at Foundation of Light’s Kicks sessions in Chester-le-Street, joined up with Street Football Team England at the state-of-the-art St George’s Park alongside 39 youngsters from across the country.
Following the training camp, which incorporates intensive personal development sessions alongside specialist street football coaching, Leah has been selected to play in the Futebol de Rua Tournament in Portugal.
Leah said: “I was really happy to be accepted into the Street Football Team England and was excited to meet new people and see what further skills can be developed as part of the programme.
I enjoyed St. George’s park and met some absolutely amazing people there who I would class as life-long friends now! The experience just seemed so surreal.
“Everything was well organised and the facilities at St Georges Park were unbelievable. I loved all the activities we took part in. They were good because we weren’t always playing football we were also doing workshops based on awareness and personal reflection which brought us all closer as a group.”
The youngster will now join the rest of the squad in London before jetting off to Batalha near Lisbon to face FC Porto and SC Espinho as well as taking part in workshops, training sessions and cultural activities.
“I was so happy when I found out I had been selected for Portugal,” added Leah. “It’s a one in a lifetime opportunity and what made it more amazing was finding out some of the people I felt I had bonded the best with at St George’s Park would be part of my group.
“I’m looking forward to competing against the other teams but more so learning about what Street Football actually is because this is a new thing for the whole group and it will be great to see us all develop as a team.
“I’ve represented the North East in other activities but never in sport and this will be a good experience doing something I enjoy.”
Through Kicks, which offers 13-19 year olds the chance to get involved in a range of exciting, informal and challenging projects, Leah has helped support the projects’ younger participants and helped raise over £1,500 for equipment and activities for the group.
It was these achievements and her determination to help others which saw Leah nominated by Foundation staff for the Street Football Team England programme.
Leah said: “The Foundation of Light offers young people the chance to get involved through fun activities and gives them somewhere to go and something to do on a night.
“I am very grateful to the Foundation of Light and the Kicks team for this amazing opportunity.”
Mark Pae, Foundation of Light’s North and Central Durham Operations Manager, said: “We are extremely proud of Leah for being selected for the Street Football Team England squad.
“She is a great example of how young people can get the most out of Kicks and use it to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.
“Leah is a positive role model for the rest of the group as a peer mentor and a key driver in terms of fundraising and contributing to the project.
“She deserves this opportunity and we wish her the very best of luck.”
Kicks is one of the Premier League’s flagship community programmes and uses the power of football and the value of sports participation to help hard-to-reach youngsters in some of the most high-need areas.
Foundation of Light’s Kicks and Mini Kickers programmes in Chester-le-Street are supported by Karbon Homes.
4 July 2017