Nedum Onuoha interview: ‘Gareth Southgate is right, we must do everything to help kids make right decisions’

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

As English football grapples with a worrying trend back towards hooliganism, the size of the task facing not just the sport but the country as a whole has become increasingly apparent.

England boss Gareth Southgate has spoken about the issues affecting the game running far deeper than what happens on the pitch, a fact known to those at the Kiyan Prince Foundation for well over a decade.

To mark the 16th anniversary of the Queens Park Rangers academy star being stabbed to death outside his school, a charity match at Beaconsfield Town FC will take place this Sunday to raise funds for a cause as relevant now as it has ever been.

Former QPR player Nedum Onuoha spoke to Standard Sport about what football can continue to do to help communities ahead of featuring in the match, alongside the likes of Danny Simpson, Nigel Winterburn and Kevin Lisbie.

“I think clubs around the league are trying to play their part, they understand their communities better than those from the outside,” Onuoha says.

“But you just worry sometimes about the accessibility. Do those communities really know about these schemes? Are there enough people championing them? In west London you can’t just assume everyone goes to Harrods, there’s more to it.

“The next stage is getting people to participate. Football is great but it’s still a luxury. When you have the privilege of being involved in football, the way you talk about things doesn’t represent the way things are for certain people. Maybe you can put on a soccer school - it may be a great school - but can they drive their kid to it? Can they afford to take time off work to pick them up afterwards? Have they got money to feed them? Or are they just going to have to decide they can’t go?

“For me it’s about the other side, the needs of the people, and finding the right messaging to do it. As Gareth says with the pitch invasions, that’s what people have decided is normal and acceptable. In some ways football has said okay that’s fine, in reality it isn’t. In terms of helping people, messaging is key and you have to do absolutely everything you can to find something that helps their futures, rather than just saying, ‘This is the address, find your own way there’.”

The Kiyan Prince Foundation, one of the country’s most prevalent after three years lending its name to QPR’s stadium and a successful project to put Kiyan in the FIFA 21 video game, is helping youngsters because, as Onuoha puts it: “It accepts adversity happens - but that it doesn’t have to define your future.”

It is that notion of accepting life’s difficulties, and the unique way in which everybody deals with them, that the ex-defender feels is most important in reaching out to youngsters vulnerable to making the wrong decisions in life.

Kiyan Prince was tipped to play for England (QPR)
Kiyan Prince was tipped to play for England (QPR)

“It’s such a positive foundation,” he continues. “Unfortunately within certain communities, whether that’s to do with race or socio-economic standing, the decisions you make feel like the right decisions based on that environment. But they’re not.

“It affects the lives of not just those involved but the peripheral figures as well. Unfortunately the genesis of it came from such a big tragedy. The charities out there understand the needs of the people within those communities. Lots of people are really struggling with the decisions that set their futures, and this foundation is about positive futures. They have their best interests at heart which you can’t say about everyone when you’re a young guy.”

The charity match will pitch a team of Arsenal Legends featuring Winterburn and Jay Bothroyd against a Team Harvey side captained by the former rapper and non-league footballer MC Harvey.

“It feels that much better when there’s a cause behind it, to get the chance to go out there and put on a spectacle and raise as much money as possible for the foundation is brilliant,” adds Onuoha.

Tickets for Team Harvey versus Arsenal legends can be purchased here.

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