Birmingham kids given chance to become professional footballers
A Birmingham project which gives disadvantaged children a chance
to become professional
footballers has been shortlisted by the West Midlands Police and Crime
Commissioner for a
Academy de Skillz,which is run by brothers Mohammed and Naj, was establishedin 2006 and has made it to the final stage of
the Outstanding Citizens Awards after drawing praise from
It will feature in the Outstanding
Community Project category.
Academy De Skillzworks in partnership with West
Bromwich Albion Football Club to spot new footballing talent amongst
children from vulnerable backgrounds.
The initiative acts onreferrals from local schools, parents
and the police to
target youngsters in
Around ten years ago the scheme was helping 20 young
people a year to realise their sporting potential. Now it reaches
more than 200.
The brothersand their team of 11 volunteerswork with children in areas as wideas Handsworth, Erdington, Smethwick
Academy de Skillz aims to reduce youth criminality by taking young people off the streets and
encouraging them to play sport.
Commenting on the award, Mohammed
Rafique, said:"I am honoured to be nominated for the award. The opportunity to
change the lives of the children I coach by building
character on and off the
pitch is what inspires me and my coaching team at Academy De
The West Midlands Police and Crime
Commissioner, David Jamieson, said: "Academy de Skillz is doing some great work with young
people across the West Midlands.
"Recent increases in youth violence
have shown that this sort of work with young people is
"Providing them with opportunity and activities helps keep them off the
streetand out of
trouble, while also
develop new skills and keep fit."
One of the children helpedby the academyis Abu Bakr Kanu. He said: "The academy has changed my life, the coaches
believed in me and spent hours coaching me providing with support
and guidance.I have now signed a further 2-year
schoolboy contract at West Bromwich Albion FC which is a dream come
The Outstanding Citizens Awards take
place on 5th July.