Four boys from a local Islington school were given a once-in-the-lifetime opportunity to step out in front of a packed crowd at Emirates Stadium, when they were presented with a national award ahead of this week’s home clash with Everton.
The group of youngsters from St Mary Magdalene Academy claimed a silver medal in the National Table Tennis School Team Championship Finals last month and celebrated their achievement with a pitchside presentation with Gunners defender Carl Jenkinson.
The talented quartet of Kai, Alfie, Kotaro and Thomas displayed breathtaking skills to fight their way past no less than 270 teams across multiple rounds before taking the runners-up spot at the Finals tournament in Leicestershire, narrowly missing out on the gold medal by just two games.
St Mary Magdalene Academy has taken part in Arsenal in the Community’s Premier League 4 Sport programme since September 2009 and run satellite clubs in table tennis, badminton and boys and girls hockey.
Since September, the school has stepped up its table tennis participation by creating more sessions for the primary section of the school, from which the boys originate. Their success was made possible thanks to the dedicated leadership of coach Bhavin Savjani from London Table Tennis Academy, who said of the boys’ achievement: “The boys only started training seriously in September so this is an amazing achievement. They have shown real dedication and talent to come so far in so short a time.”
Without the involvement of Arsenal in the Community, the school may not have run any of these sports for their pupils and now regularly have over 30 young people participating actively each week.
Premier League 4 Sport (PL4S) is the pioneering sports participation programme, which was launched in 2009 and is a joint venture between the Premier League, Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust to encourage more young people to get involved in Olympic sports as part of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games’ legacy commitment.
Last year, an additional £2million of funding was announced through the Premier League Creating Chances programme in partnership with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which will see scheme double in size and further extend its target for sports participation amongst young people.