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Soccerwise: Moss Side Amateur Reserves

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Moss Side, Manchester

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3. CITIZENSHIP - civic rights, responsibilities and youth justice

Moss Side Amateur Reserves was formed in 1995 to enable young people who, through soccer could help ease the gang rivalry and tensions that existed in the Hulme and Moss side area and the City of Manchester. Consisting of rival gang members from the Alexandra Park estate, the key drivers were Billy Hughes (Millennium Powerhouse) who was also the team manager, Irving Williams (Hideaway Project), Geoff Thompson (Youth Charter) and Youth Charter Vice President and sporting ambassador, Sir Bobby Charlton.

The success of Moss Side Amateur Reserves can be measured both on and off the field. They won the South Manchester and Wythenshawe League and some members of the team were selected for trials with league clubs. The club was also honoured to be the last competitive outing for Sir Bobby Charlton on the celebration of his 60th Birthday. The team were also an incentive as peace was maintained in the area with historic international exchange matches with the Ghanaian U17 World Cup winning side and the South African U23 Olympic Squad.

Additional motivation and encouragement was provided with the visit of the then Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality and Vice President of the Youth Charter, Lord Ousley who met with the Moss Side Amateur Reserves to learn from them as well as discuss the social and cultural barriers facing them as part of their every day lives.

“Moss Side Amateur Reserves aimed to reduce territorial fear by inviting each other to their respective youth clubs. Wearing the same football strip was symbolic of reducing the divisions between the two groups. The team was composed of hard-core gang members who responded to the acknowledgement of their football achievements and the help given to them. For example, they were given access to Manchester
City’s training facilities, the Youth Charter provided football kit, they had the support of Sir Bobby Charlton and motivational, life skill and lifestyle advice was provided by Geoff Thompson MBE.

As part of the developmental agenda the team sometimes had to be counselled over how it should react to problems, such as racist match officials. Responses included just playing so well that decisions against
them were irrelevant, and also reporting racism to FA officials. This was part of the agenda of helping young people to address their problems in a socially responsible way.” (Nichols 2004)

The main successes have come from a more general involvement with club and team where young people removed themselves from involvement with crime (especially drugs) and others who have avoided initial contact. Whilst some players have gone onto professional and semi-professional football (e.g. Wayne Collins (Sheffield), Gary Bennett (Manchester City), Clive Wilson (Spurs) and Wes Brown (Manchester United) others have utilised their skills in employment, establishing their own business and in one case music promotions. However, and within the Youth Charter’s experience and belief that sport and the arts are
simply a vaccine or antidote at best, it is not the solution or treatment for all of society’s ills within the social and cultural challenges that these young men face. The Moss Side Amateur Reserves goalkeeper Errol Jones ended up serving a life sentence in a Category A institution for a gang related killing.

Acceptance into Moss Side Amateurs Reserves brought with it responsibility for the young people involved. Membership brought an immediate support network enabling them to interact socially with their peers without involvement (i.e. buying, selling, transport or administration of illegal substances) in the local drugs ‘scene’. An underlying premise behind the club is that everyone involved must disassociate themselves
from any connection with local crime and both individuals and gangs involved in it. This has, on the whole been successful, although there have been past instances where a member was unwilling to commit to the team at the expense of gang association.

The construction of the Moss Side Millennium Powerhouse broadened the opportunities for club members and the wider community with an environment of social and cultural cohesion, which encouraged personal
self -development in such areas as education, health, social order and employment.

The Youth Charter’s success of the Moss Side Amateurs led to the establishment of the Soccerwise programme.

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Young People


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Social Coaches


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