Winter Survival Appeal: How Harry Kane inspiring young children to turn their lives around

Football Beyond Borders is being funded by a £50,000 grant from our Winter Survival Appeal in partnership with Comic Relief
Robert Dex @RobDexES13 December 2023

Harry Kane is too busy breaking records for Bayern Munich to know it but the England captain’s example is unwittingly helping hundreds of young Londoners stay in school and pass exams, thus securing them a better future.

The former Spurs star is used by Football Beyond Borders (FBB) — one of the charities being funded by a £50,000 grant from our Winter Survival Appeal in partnership with Comic Relief — as a role model in their work utilising the beautiful game to help vulnerable children. From their London base in Brixton, they go into schools and work with children who are the most disengaged to support them in achieving their GCSEs.

The staff — called practitioners — work on the pitch and in the classroom supporting pupils, playing the part of teacher, coach, social worker and therapist all in one.

FBB’s Ceylon Andi Hickman says football is the “Trojan horse” to get into children’s lives and turn them around. She said: “We see the football pitch as the perfect space to demonstrate and learn from positive and negative emotions. For example, we teach self-regulation over eight weeks on and off the pitch and it all links from the pitch to the classroom.

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“We do a module called Perfect Penalty where we look at some footballers, Harry Kane for example, how he steps up to take a penalty and puffs out his chest, takes a deep breath, sets back his shoulders and puts his chin up — regulating his emotions ready to take that penalty. We use that to teach young people about mindfulness techniques.”

She added: “We do it in the classroom, then we go out on the pitch and they take penalties and do all these routines. We say, ‘you’ve learned this, now apply it the next time your teacher shouts at you, the next time your mum makes you triggered’.”

The relationships endure beyond school with one of her former pupils, Penny, working as an ambassador for FBB. The 17-year-old from south London was struggling with dyslexia and caught up in a custody battle when she walked into her first session.

Football Beyond Boarders
The charity helps vulnerable children
Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd

She was also being bullied and suffered anxiety. Predicted to fail her GCSEs, she passed the lot and is now in college — something she says would not have happened without FBB.

She said: “Football gave me something to express myself. I was able to run on the football pitch for that hour and come out feeling great. I’d forgotten about everything that happened before and being able to speak to the practitioners — I got a lot off my chest. They gave me ways to cope with how I was feeling, whether it was breathing exercises, going for a walk or out with friends, there was always a solution they gave me.”

Another beneficiary is 17-year-old Jamal from north London who described himself as a “troubled” 12-year-old growing up around violence when FBB came to his school. He went from hating class to going in an hour early and staying two hours late to be part of the programme.

Jamal said: “There was a very big difference between practitioners and teachers. We had set modules for different terms and I remember the first one was masculinity because obviously we’re young men still trying to figure each other out and they came and we did stuff like ‘What makes a man?’ We did our own stories about how we’ve grown in the past year. That was impactful — it has stayed with me to now.”

The teenager, now studying business, said: “That’s something FBB gave me — a space to express myself. When I was in Year 8, it was downhill and FBB came and picked it straight back up. I don’t know if I’d have finished school without them. I like to think I would, but I don’t know.”

Some names have been changed

How you can help

£10 could provide a nourishing meal for a Londoner every day for a month

£20 could provide a duvet and pillow to a young person helping them sleep at night

£50 could contribute to a new school uniform for a child fleeing with a parent from an abusive relationship

£100 could provide 400 meals for families at a local community centre

£300 could pay for all that’s needed by a family expecting a baby, including new cot, mattress and pram

£1,750 could get a truck packed with enough food for 7,000 meals

In a nutshell

We have partnered with Comic Relief to launch our Winter Survival Appeal Christmas Campaign, with Comic Relief pledging £500,000 to kick off our fund. The money we raise will help fund charities in London and across the country helping people who are struggling with the cost of living crisis.

How you can help

To make a donation, visit