Former England international footballer Sol Campbell met young service users in Hackney to talk about the ‘crossroad moment’ that led to him pursuing football. Sol, who grew up in Plaistow was accepted onto a football training programme at the age of 14. He spoke candidly about the value of hard work, goal setting and ambition that led him down the path of football.
Over 20 young people came along to meet him; amongst them were keen cyclists, footballers and equestrians. Sol began by telling them about his life in Plaistow where he grew up as the youngest of 12 children. Football was his escape from the overcrowded conditions at home and a way in which he kept out of trouble on the streets.
The young people shared their experiences of growing up in Hackney: exposure to drugs, gangs and violence in school and on the streets from a young age. Like Sol they shared a passion for sports and the routine and discipline it gives them. Many expressed an interest in becoming professional sports professionals. But they recognised that it would not be easy to do with one young person saying, "You have to work hard because that’s life". Another said that he would focus on football but was also working toward his GCSEs . One attendee was an active competitive cyclist, who regularly travelled out of the borough to train; he spoke about the pressure to take drugs from friends.
A Q&A session followed with the rival arsenal and spurs fans asking the ex footballer ‘Which team is better?’ ‘Did you really sell your house for £25 million?’ ‘What was the most difficult time in your career?’ and most importantly ‘Should Wenger go’. They later showed off their football skills in the garden with Sol.
The visit was part of a radio piece for the BBC Today Programme, watch the full video here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05rkfjt