Father’s Football is a weekly project run by Ambassador’s Football in London. Led by Gareth Haddow, St Paul’s, Shadwell, the project aims to reach fathers in the local community of Tower Hamlets and provide them an opportunity play sport. Bronnie King from Ambassadors Football explains further.
Most of the fathers who are involved are either full-time carers of their children or are working unsociable hours in the nighttime economy. They are unable to play sport when it is traditionally offered so Father’s Football runs from 9:30-11:00 pm to cater for these men. Father’s Football is more than just about playing football together. It helps to tackle three important issues these men face: isolation; being a member of their local community; integrating with other local men.
In our experience, men can often feel isolated when they are working full-time especially at night or are looking after children. Father’s Football provide the right opportunity for them to get out of the house and to socialise with others in a similar position. We also organise trips and other activities outside of the regular Wednesday and Thursday kickabouts. The men build a strong friendship group and these relationships are often carry over into day to day life, helping to tackle this isolation.
Fathers Football builds a stronger local community by encouraging the men to have the confidence to engage, through our own ‘sports leader’ courses. This encourages them to build their confidence and to be more engaged with their children’s lives and education. One man, who lacked confidence in speaking English, attended a parents’ evening for the first time after the other fathers suggested he take more of an interest in his kids’ education.
Our fathers all come from a huge range of backgrounds, bringing a great variety of religious belief and cultural differences. Through Football we are able to integrate this diversity over a common love of the ‘beautiful game’. But more than that by tackling these differences by learning more about what every father believes we can create community integration. We have learnt that listening and sharing go hand in hand.
During Ramadan, for example, we often join the men by going for breakfast meals with them at the mosque or watching their prayers. In doing so we learn more about their practices and lifestyles, get a better understanding our fathers and the things that matter to them. Our openness to hearing their beliefs also means that they are more willing to learn about what we believe in too. As a result, men come to the Christian events we put on and take part in our Christmas and Easter traditions.
The biggest part of the project is undoubtedly the relationships that are formed on the football pitch. Whilst football is the thing that brings these men together, it is only a starting point. Our end goal is not simply to have a match every week, but to be involved in the lives of these men and build real, genuine friendships. Gareth shares in their joys and sadness’: from hospital visits to having lunch and talking about the pressures of being a father. He has become a part of their lives and a pastor.
Ultimately, we want to show the men that God cares about them and wants to be involved in their lives. As fathers, they play a crucial role in their families and Father’s Football is there to support and encourage them in this position. We view the men as more than just a ‘project’ but as individuals, precious to the God who made them.
Bronnie King is the new Communications Intern at Ambassadors Football and plays for Hackney Women’s FC. She is passionate about starting a women’s Football ministry in London.
The diocesan communications team provides support to the network of clergy, churches, parishes and other worshipping communities that comprises the Diocese of London, as well as to the staff teams of the London Diocesan Fund.
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