Every match, we hear from senior figures at the club on our Official Voice pages of the matchday programme. This issue the legendary Ian Wright discusses our No More Red campaign with adidas.
The year 2021 will be remembered for the continuation of the coronavirus pandemic which changed the world as we see it. Amid that, we have also had to deal with increased economic and political volatility. One thing that has gone under the radar but is still a massive problem for us in London, especially for our young people, is violence on the streets.
Youth violence is not new to the capital but 2021 marked the highest number of teenage murders in London on record. Let that sink in. The highest ever recorded. We are living in a time where life is being taken away. Our youth are taking each other’s lives. Families are losing generations. Bright young people are not able to grow old. It hurts.
- This article first appeared in the matchday programme, which can be purchased here: https://programme.arsenal.com/
Most of these young lives have tragically been lost through attacks involving knives. This issue has been ongoing for a while, but we can’t just sit down and accept this as something that is now part of our lives. Too much pain has occurred.
Adidas and Arsenal have been in partnership for a while. One joint initiative that they have been working on is ‘No More Red’– many of you will have seen the team wearing the one off all-white kit against Nottingham Forest recently. Together, adidas and Arsenal will support young people by helping to address some of the root causes of violent youth crime in London. This initiative builds on the fantastic work Arsenal in the Community has been delivering for more than 35 years.
I have no idea what it is like growing up in London today. I know I may seem far removed but I am a father, a grandfather, an uncle, and someone who once grew up in London.
Things may be different now, but I understand how life is not easy. I know that it can be hard going from place to place. I know it is easy to go down the wrong path. I know despite being such a populated place, it is so easy to feel alone.
I’ve seen how things can escalate out of nowhere and I’ve also seen how things could be easily prevented. I was someone that needed help and guidance. I’ve also witnessed people who just need a helping hand and witnessed people who have had the wrong arm around them.
It’s emotional for me. Everyone deserves opportunity. Opportunity to express themselves, opportunity to exist within a safe environment. Opportunity to live. Loss of life through youth violence should not be a thing that has become ‘normal’ in our city.
Part of No More Red will see adidas and Arsenal identifying safe spaces in need of investment and redeveloping them so that young people have somewhere to call their own. It feels like in my time we had more safe places than young people have now. I remember our youth centres and halls that we could go to after school and on weekends.
Another part of the initiative will be recognising this lack of opportunity that exists and working with young people in local communities across London. The aim is to ensure that young people can be spotlighted and celebrated with the hope that their skills and passions can pave a way for them.
People need to see that it is possible to make something happen. Therefore, mentorships will be provided so that young people can have positive role models to look up to and speak to. I’ve seen first-hand how these programmes improve the lives of our youth.
People like Kush. This girl is passionate about music, and through the No More Red initiative adidas and Arsenal have given her the opportunity to record her very first radio show – a two-hour slot on Soho radio. Adidas introduced her to Emerald Rose Lewis – and the Rinse FM DJ gave Kush tips and advice, and even appeared on her show. A mind-blowing experience for her.
There’s also Verona – a fantastic young artist who used the Arsenal in the Community Hub as a safe space to go and play football after school. It was through the community hub that she was introduced to art, and through No More Red, adidas put her together with a fantastic artist – Reuben Dangoor.
Reuben has shot to fame, using social media as a platform to showcase himself and his art and he spent some time with Verona, giving her advice on how to move forward with her career. Following this, the project then commissioned Verona to create a piece of art that appears on today’s programme cover. There are countless more examples of young people doing great things. The No More Red initiative aims to recognise these young people with the exclusive not for sale white shirt used at Forest.
The shirt will be given to great charities and organisations as recognition for the fantastic work to support young people. It’s an ongoing and long-lasting project.
Youth violence is a massive issue. This initiative will not solve it, but it is important that something is done. That’s why for me, I don’t want to only use my voice, but dedicate my time and efforts into helping where I can. The initiative will empower people who will then go on and empower their local communities. The hope is that positive inspiration can be spread.
I know just how important having a safe space and access to role models is. Many think that football gave me a nice career, but the truth is, football and the people around me saved my life. I can’t tell you where I would be without opportunity and inspiration. That is why I am proud to play a small part in this powerful initiative.
Uncle Ian x