Over the course of the 2023/24 season we will hear from a wide range of local people who have benefitted from Arsenal in the Community projects. Here we find out more about how Lola Young OBE plays a game she loves at the club she loves.
Name: Lola Young OBE
Project: Women’s Walking Football
Sessions: Wednesdays 10-11am at The Arsenal Hub
Available to: Women over the age of 40
Lola Young OBE is Baroness Young of Hornsey. A lifelong Arsenal fan, she is an independent crossbench member of the House of Lords, working on legislation to eliminate modern slavery. She also co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion and on Sport, Modern Slavery and Human Rights. She tells us about her upbringing in care and the brilliant work of Arsenal in the Community.
“Sense of belonging has always been about being a north Londoner. To me it’s where I belong – that’s my identity and Arsenal is synonymous with that.
“When I was younger I was in foster care and eventually in a children’s home. As a teenager, I got moved around to different places quite regularly and this was difficult because I felt no sense of belonging. I wouldn’t wish it on any child and at those young ages you should be surrounded by people who show you love and care.
“My first connection to Arsenal came at my last children's home on Elwood Street, just a minute's walk from Highbury. While I was there I was fascinated by the idea that there was this amazing football club down the road and it gave me a sense of belonging and happiness. It encouraged me to believe that I wasn’t just a girl from the children’s home, but a part of Arsenal’s community.
“Funnily enough, former Arsenal defender and assistant manager Pat Rice worked in the greengrocers just around the corner on Gillespie Road when he was young. I remember him coming around to deliver our food. Pat embodied the community culture before he went on to have an amazing career as a player and coach.
“Winning the double in 1971 was special as there was a real sense of celebration and togetherness around Highbury. It was truly amazing, especially seeing Pat play a key role.
“The work Arsenal in the Community do with people in care is very close to my heart given my upbringing. We need to educate ourselves better on why young people end up in care but also support them better once they leave care.
“I take part in the Women’s Walking Football programme, which is a fantastic way to keep myself fit and after just a few months I felt so much better! It’s also a great opportunity to make lots of new friends and I’ve been doing it for four or five years now. During the last Women’s World Cup in 2019, we even had the amazing opportunity to go to France for a Walking Football Tournament.
“Arsenal is a special club to me. It has allowed me to feel a sense of belonging, improve my health and fitness and positively impact our local community. It’s important because no entity or organisation can be divorced from their local area or issues within it. Now I'm on the supporters' mural outside the stadium, I feel even more connected to the club.”
For more information email Rhys Ratcliffe at firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2022, the club launched a programme with Islington Council to provide care-experienced young people with age-appropriate activities to support their education. Additionally, on Tuesdays after school, Arsenal provides a homework club for Looked After Children where they can complete their school work, play football and make lots of friends.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.