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Newham football coach: 'Music videos have a negative impact on the way kids view the world'

PUBLISHED: 16:24 18 April 2018

Denis Hasanaj, who single-handedly set up the Football Force Academy last year. Picture: Ken Mears

Denis Hasanaj, who single-handedly set up the Football Force Academy last year. Picture: Ken Mears

Archant

The head of a football academy in East Ham has spoken out about youth crime, social media, and the positive impact sport can have.

When Albanian-born Denis Hasanaj, 25, set up Football Force Academy in July last year, he had a specific area he wanted to target.

“I did a lot of research – I wanted the academy to be somewhere you’d consider disadvantaged, an area with poverty,” he said.

“Individuals don’t have equal opportunity, and I wanted to change that.”

The academy, for six to 12-year-olds, trains in Plashet Park on Saturday mornings. The focus isn’t on winning – Denis said it’s about learning how to cope with weakness.

“Different children react differently to weakness,” he said.

“If they have low self-esteem, which a lot of them do, some don’t handle it as well. The academy is about teaching you the value of different skills.”

For Denis, providing this outlet is about providing an alternative identity for young boys. A sense of belonging, which they might otherwise find in gangs, can be found there.

He said: “The aim is just to be there for them - we’re someone they can come and talk to, someone they can lean on.

“Being in a gang, they look at it like a brotherhood. It’s attractive because it’s seen as being good money, and it’s often attractive for kids who haven’t got a lot.

“We’ve got to teach the younger children that it’s okay not to have money, as long as you’ve got your brain.”

Denis, a trainee teacher, admitted finance was one of the biggest challenges. He cited a boy who enjoyed coming every week who suddenly stopped due to cost. Money becomes a double-edged sword – kids stop being able to afford activities like the football academy, and instead find role models from elsewhere.

“Social media has a huge affect on them,” Denis said. “Kids as young as eight are looking at music videos which have a negative impact on the way they view the world. They watch these videos and want the lifestyle they promote - but they don’t realise the kinds of things people had to do to get there.”

The academy trains 9-10.30 on Saturday mornings, but will also be running sessions in May half term.

For more information visit footballforceacademy.com.

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