Duke of Cambridge meets young football coaches during Olympic Park visit
PUBLISHED: 18:18 22 November 2018 | UPDATED: 11:25 23 November 2018
The Duke of Cambridge described football as "part of the fabric of this nation" as he met young people involved in a project using the sport to save lives.
Prince William met with members of the Football for Peace project, which trains people to set up and organise their own football programmes, bringing together youngsters from different backgrounds.
During the visit to the Copper Box Arena, he said that football provides “a common interest and a unifying identity”.
He added: “It brings us together in the enjoyment of a simple pastime, without complication, but with plenty of passion!”
The prince also described how on a recent trip to Israel he met young Arab and Jewish children playing together as part of a project to unify through football.
Today’s (Thursday) visit saw teenage coaches known as peace leaders from across the country graduate from the City for Peace initiative, as well as join the prince in kicking a wall down in a visual representation of what the charity aims to do.
In addition to the royal guest, it was attended by a host of famous faces from the footballing world who are ambassadors for the programme.
Former West Ham striker Carlton Cole highlighted the nation coming together behind England this summer, saying: “You’ve seen what the World Cup does, unites everybody. Football unites everybody.
“I’ve played with numerous different players across the world but once you get past the white line, you’re on the same team, you’ve got to learn to work with each other to achieve the same goal, which is a win.
“You can come from any sort of background , any sort of religion but you have the same goal as everybody else.
“That’s what Football for Peace is putting out there and I think it’s a great initiative for any young person to get involved with.”
Louis Saha added: “I felt that football gave me a lot and now it’s time to give back. This vehicle will help with people who want to make a difference, a positive impact. It’s amazing.
Football for Peace was co-founded by Kashif Siddiqi, who showed the Duke around and introduced him to some of the young people taking part.
Kashif, a former footballer, described to the prince and some of the participants how attitudes towards him were different in the UK, where he grew up, and in America, where he spent time as a player.
He said: “When I was living in LA, people treated me different there because they thought I was Brazilian.
“When I got back to the UK, there were three people [on my team] who didn’t even talk to me.
“That made the changing room environment tough.”
He said how he felt like he wasn’t always understood, being a Muslim player from a British Asian background.
Since retiring from football, Kashif, who earned one cap for Pakistan, has devoted his time to the Football for Peace project.
The event coincided with the announcement of the charity’s Football Saves Lives campaign, which aims to train up 500 more peace leaders across the UK and bring together 15,000 more young people by 2020.
Those already taking part include youngsters from Chobham Academy in Stratford.
Aaliyah Dos Santos, 15, said: “We’ve been learning how to coach, and learning about things we can do to stamp out stereotypes.”
Classmate Ibrahim Assumani, also 15, added: “I want to be a football coach, so this really helps me.”