Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez visited Harvist Estate in Islington on Thursday to meet young participants of the social inclusion programme Positive Futures. He helped coach the football session, oversee a shooting drill, and took part in a Q&A.
The Positive Futures programme, which is run by Arsenal in the Community and Islington Housing, celebrates its 10th anniversary this season.
Over the past decade, the programme has expanded to cover ten Islington estates, engaging around 150 10-19 year-olds each week across the borough.
As well as regular football sessions, the programme organises football tournaments between different estates, workshops on topics relevant to young people, residential trips, estate fun days and opportunities to attend matches at Emirates Stadium.
Martinez said of the visit: “The session was incredible. We had something similar when I was a kid, with coaches taking us away from the street, away from drugs and alcohol and teaching us how to play football. So I know how important sessions like this can be.
“You can see how much the kids enjoy it, they just want to play football. It was great to be able to come down and see some of the work the club does in the local area.”
Arsenal in the Community coach Rhys Shirley-Clarke, who was supported by Positive Futures before becoming a coach himself, added: “It was brilliant for the group to have Emi down to the session.
“Positive Futures has done a lot for me personally. It helped me focus on getting my coaching badges and a job that I enjoyed, and not get too caught up with some of things happening in my area.
“I want the young people on the programme now to be able to follow the same path I have, and having Emi down is a great motivation for everyone in the group.”
Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, took part in the football session too: “Islington is a great area to live in but the borough has its fair share of challenges.
“We’ve got a lot of child poverty, a lot of people out of work, a lot of not great housing. The Positive Futures programme we deliver with Arsenal in the Community has made an enormous difference to the lives of lots of young people in the borough.
“It’s helped participants do well in school, get into work, and stay away from some of the more unfortunate distractions out there in a community like this, so it’s been a great success.”
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