Sanchez was new to the area. Moving to a new home in a different environment can be a challenging time for young people, especially when they have to settle in to a new school and make friends from scratch. But Sanchez, despite being naturally reserved, made the bold step of attending an Arsenal Kicks session – and he hasn’t looked back.
If you’re not familiar with it yet, Arsenal in the Community have delivered the Kicks project since 2006 with funding through the Premier League Charitable Fund.
We deliver free football sessions on estates and parks in Islington, Camden, Hackney and Westminster for young people aged eight to 18 that aim to provide positive activities outside of school hours.
We use football to engage participants, build good relationships and then support them into opportunities that will aid their personal development off the pitch.
Sanchez first engaged in the Kicks programme in 2017, when he and his brother moved to Islington. The sessions were a great place for them to meet new people and play football.
We also worked with Sanchez in his education setting through the PL Kicks Targeted programme, and it was clear straight away that he loved football.
We offered Sanchez the opportunity to complete his Junior Football Leaders Course during a school holiday at a local venue. He jumped at the chance and completed the two-day course with flying colours. This gave him a real sense of achievement and improved his confidence. He tended to be quite shy but was also keen to help coaches and be a part of the Kicks sessions. Passing the course gave Sanchez the confidence to start helping the Kicks coaches with the running of the younger children’s sessions. He would set up equipment, help deliver warm-ups and referee matches. He was always happy to help.
“I love football and just being around it. I thought it would be good to do the course as it was fun and then I could teach others.”
Sanchez was keen to try other things and in 2019 was successful in trialling for the Arsenal Ball Squad. He would be pitchside on matchdays at Emirates Stadium helping get the ball back for the players. This was a great opportunity for Sanchez to develop his teamwork skills, increase his confidence and be part of the matchday experience at every fixture. These experiences also help develop a Sense of Belonging.
“I liked the Ball Squad and I was allocated as a team leader to make sure everyone’s listening and doing the right thing. It was a big job to do but I Iiked it.”
Sanchez was offered the opportunity to be part of a feature on the PL Kicks programme with Rapman and movie star Micheal Ward, which you can see here.
“Making that video was just different! It was weird cos I’m used to seeing them on the TV at home and then I’m making a video with them. I was really nervous but I enjoyed it.”
Sanchez was also given the opportunity to be part of a Kicks trip to Cologne, Germany for a cultural exchange where he took part in a range of football activities and cultural experiences to support his learning. He embraced the experience, trying his best to pick up German phrases and connect with the German youngsters that we spent time with as part of the experience.
“Personally, I would say it was top tier! We played football, trained and were just having fun being in another country. We went to the museum and university and met other people, which was good.”
As a recognition of Sanchez’s commitment and positive attitude, when Arsenal won the FA Cup in 2020, Arsenal legend Martin Keown visited his home with the trophy on his 16th birthday. It was a great way for Sanchez to celebrate and acknowledge his achievements.
“I opened the door and was like, ‘What?!’ It was nuts, I don’t even know what to say about that.”
Over the past couple of years Sanchez has passed his FA Playmaker course as well as his Introduction to Coaching Football (FA Level 1) qualification. After leaving the Ball Squad, Sanchez was supported into a paid role in the Arsenal’s Venue team where he helps set up the stadium for match days and events.
In addition to this, Sanchez joined Arsenal in the Community as a Casual Coach and is working as a Session Assistant on the Kicks programme, where he is a fantastic role model for other young people on the project.
“I’m proud of what I’m doing and I want to continue to work in football in the future.”
To watch the feature on Arsenal fans lifting the FA Cup click here
For more information on Kicks and our other social inclusion projects click here
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.