Hilltops on the rise

| Training

Metropolitan support is making a big difference to the Chalkhill football team

The Metropolitan Hilltops are celebrating their most successful season to date, with league promotion and two cup finals.

And the football team of young Metropolitan residents from Chalkhill in northwest London credit the housing association for the upturn.

In previous seasons, the team had nowhere to train and nobody to train them. This year, Metropolitan has paid for Monday-night training sessions at an all-weather facility, led by FA-qualified coaches. It’s turned the talented young men into title contenders.

Metropolitan – which also funds the Hilltops’ insurance, league registration, pitch hire and bright yellow home strip – was keen to engage with more of Chalkhill’s young people. Consultation with some of them suggested that football was one way of doing this.

Youth Engagement Solutions (YES), the local charity which ran a successful football project in Cricklewood, was asked by Metropolitan to replicate the initiative in Chalkhill.

“It was a great opportunity to involve our customers in positive activities – sport and employment training and opportunities,” explains Saba Yazdani, Metropolitan Health and Wellbeing Officer.

“The project has engaged more than 60 BME [Black and Minority Ethnic] young people, who are at a notoriously difficult-to-reach age. It’s brought down postcode barriers between them and given them something to do on Monday evenings.

“And most of them now know what Metropolitan is.”

Team captain Ibrahim Hussein speaks of the “passion for football” and shared upbringing that has brought the participants together.

“We come from the same area,” he says. “Some of us went to the same school. Most of us grew up on the Chalkhill estate. We used to kick a ball around in the roads or empty car parks.”

They joined a local league a few years ago, but a lack of support held them back.

“We didn’t have any training facilities,” Ibrahim continues. “This year, we’ve had proper training sessions at the Ark Academy in Wembley, with coaches who know what they’re doing.”

Metropolitan also paid for a few members of the team to complete their FA Level 1 qualification in coaching football.

“I’m now able to help with some of our training,” says winger Michael Panford. “In the summer holidays, I want to get involved with training some of the younger players.

“Football is a big part of my life. It might turn out to be a career or just a hobby.”
The sixth-former is delighted that Metropolitan will be backing the Hilltops again next season.

“It’s giving us the chance to play together and achieve something together.”