ON Wednesday 20th February 2019 members of the Metropolitan Police Service faced young people who engage in QPR Trust community sessions in a football match at Westway Sports & Fitness Centre.
But this was not your standard football match. Whilst there was some excellent play on show by both teams and certainly, a competitive edge to the fixture, the game itself was almost secondary viewing in W12.
This contest was primarily about helping to build and create a bond between two segments of the local community that too often experience a divisive relationship.
The aim of this fixture was to allow young people from the local area and police officers to spend a couple of hours in each other’s company playing a sport they both love. However more importantly it was to help create a bond and mutual respect between these two important sectors of society.
Nawfal Elasri who is the QPR Trust North Kensington Officer believes the game, which came about after he was approached by the Royal Borough of Kensington, has been a big success.
Speaking to www.qpr.co.uk he said: “Someone came to me with an idea to play a match that featured youngsters from the local area against the police from West London boroughs to help break down a barrier but also bring a healthy competitive edge between the two sides. I thought what a fantastic idea!”
“It’s been a great success, you can see that by how much the lads are enjoying it out there. It’s a lot deeper than just football, this is about helping boys that are 18/19-years-old to view the police in a more positive light. We want to create a community vibe where they see other members of the community in a different and more positive way. Football can do that.
Bilal Bihi is a 19-year-old who played in the match and is a regular participant of one of the football sessions that Nawfal puts on during a Monday night. He explained how many young people in the area feel about police, and how initiatives like this can help change those mindsets.
“It’s true that If I see a policeman on the street I’d think oh look it’s a fed and try to ignore them,” confessed Bilal. “But now if I see them on the street I will recognise them from the game and hopefully even manage to have a chat with them about it.
“Playing them in a game of football allows us to connect on a level that we wouldn’t usually do. Obviously, there has to be a level of respect between the two sides, in football, you always have to respect your opponent.”
And Carlos Husbands, who is a member of the Metropolitan Police hopes this is the first of many matches between the two. Carlos believes that football and other social activities are the key to building a friendly community spirit.
He said: “Any opportunity for us to engage with young people be it sport or on other platforms, we are interested in doing. It is very easy for people to forget that Police Officer are human and the moment you do things like this, people realise that you are not too different from them.
“Just a minute ago one of their players asked when I am going to be subbed on because he wants to try and nutmeg me and that’s the kind of friendly relationship we want to create. Events like these can only help.”
On the field, the young community side had too much for their older opponents.
Before the game commenced there was a minute silence for all young people who had lost their lives because of knife crime.
And the community side raced into a 5-0 lead at half-time. The police responded with a much-improved performance in the second period with the end result being an 8-1 victory for the youngsters.
But the big winner is the local area which will almost certainly benefit from an improved relationship between two different members of society.