BOBBY KASANGA founded Hackney Wick Football Club in 2015. And Hackney Wick FC are certainly not your regular football club, with their ethos based on community engagement and uniting local diverse groups, as well as battling peer pressure and tackling gang influences.
The club engage 160 youths and 70 adults through training, fitness and football matches. There are 16 youth teams, plus sessions for children with ad- ditional needs, as well as two adult teams.
The East London club offer educational workshops, sporting opportunities, mentoring and access to work opportunities, which actively engage with those already involved in gangs, or those on the brink of gang life, and those who might not be aware of the threats out there (as a safeguarding tool).
The Voice of Sport caught up with club founder and the award-winning Bobby Kasanga.
Rodney Hinds: How proud are you of what has been achieved at the club?
Bobby Kasanga: I am extremely proud of what we have achieved creating Hackney Wick, not just myself but all the unsung heroes of the club too. It’s just amazing.
RH: You were determined to stop young people making some of the mistakes that you made in your early life. How have you gone about that?
BK: I always tell young people about my experience. How I went wrong, the mistakes I made and the mistakes my friends make. I show them and tell them stories of how young people are being murdered on our streets.
At the same time, I also tell them relevant stories which I hope will inspire them. We run workshops on gangs and peer pressure. We go into schools, prisons and PRUs [Pupil Referral Units] to spread the word, as well as give opportunities.
RH: The club is about much more than football. It is more about uniting a diverse group. How successful have you been with that and how has that been achieved?
BK: I always say one of the biggest things I liked about the club was how we united culture. Our men’s team were predominantly young black males from the local estates, while the women’s team was predominantly middle class white women. But through the power of sports these par- ties were able to unite.
We also have young players from across the borough who play for our teams. This means territorial barriers are removed. Last year, we held the 32 Borough Cup. We had 32 teams from all the London boroughs and held a two-day tournament with over 600 youths.
This was how we wanted to unite London from the issues of postcode wars.
RH: You were recognised at the Football Black List celebration. How did it feel to achieve that recognition?
BK: It was an honour to be recognised at the Black List awards among fellow great people. I was humbled and felt a sense of pride as it again highlights that the work we are doing within our community is not unnoticed.
Also, we know how much we need more black role models, so to see the room filled with so many people doing great things, it just shows how the positive side of our community needs to be put on a higher pedestal.
RH: The club looks set to move out of Hackney. How does that impact all that you have done?
BK: It will have a massive impact, as financially it means going to a new stadium further away from Hackney, meaning extra costs and mini-bus hire for home and away matches.
It could mean losing many of our local talent who won’t be able to travel for every single match. It also means less time volunteering in our area, as we need to put resources into keeping the club afloat, as well as losing sponsorship from local businesses as we won’t be their local team. Furthermore, it means the young people who attend our matches will no longer be able to attend.
RH: What are some of your goals and ambitions for Hackney Wick?
BK: The biggest goal for Hackney Wick is to get a ground in Hackney which allows for semi-professional football.
Also for the club to be financially sustainable when it comes to the football operation.