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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 July 2007, 17:50 GMT 18:50 UK
Young People thrive in Manchester

Graham Lupepe
By Graham Lupepe
Rookie reporter

Young People founders Latifah Bailey (left) and Abida Hussain
I had to get my dad who lives in Nottingham to pick the team up from the train station

Young People founder Latifah Bailey

"I can't believe they've chipped without us," said Latifah Bailey, manager of Young People United, on discovering the coach bound for Manchester had left without her team.

However one hastily made phone call and the coach was on its way back to pick up the Leicester-based team to take them to the Your Game finals at Manchester's Sportscity complex.

Young People qualified for the national finals of the UK's biggest street football tournament when they were named Fair Play winners of the Nottingham leg in May.

Their achievement is made the more remarkable considering the team had never even played together before.

"We received an e-mail about a week before the event," said team captain Faz, who quickly assembled his team of young hopefuls aged between 17 and 23. "We had zero training."

However getting a team together was just the first hurdle.

"We couldn't afford the transport up to Nottingham," explained Bailey. "I had to get my dad who lives there to pick the team up from the train station."

Having received a sound drubbing during the Nottingham competition - they lost every game - it's fair to say they were not expecting to reach the final by conventional means.

"We decided to wait around after getting knocked out," said Faz. "We were surprised when they announced we'd won the Fair Play award."

Since then they have been training hard at their local park in anticipation.

Bailey and her friend Abida Hussain run the Race Equality and Refugee Centre in Leicester.

Young People keeper Abdihamid poses for the camera
Keeper Abdihamid brought along the team's biggest supporter - his mother

They support newly arrived refugees who have received a positive decision on their asylum applications, helping them to find employment and housing, getting them into education and giving them support during their resettlement.

They use sport to inspire these young people in the community.

"We try to normalise lives. These groups are being excluded within the community, we try and show these young people that they can join in and have fun," said Bailey.

Aboard the coach, they get the first glimpse of their competition, another Leicestershire based team Score 4 Sport.

Likewise, their road to the final has been far from straightforward.

"We turned up in Nottingham, only to find we were two days early and no-one was there," said player Daniel Johnson.

Undeterred, they managed to grab the last place at the Birmingham event, narrowly losing out in the final on penalties, but booking their place in Manchester via the Fair Play Award.

Their captain Wayde had even cancelled his holiday to play in the finals - that is how much the tournament means to him.

Daniel works for Nacro, an organisation to reduce antisocial behaviour and give young people something positive to focus on.

Young People FC in action
Despite their best intentions, Young People FC didn't have too much success in Manchester

"Name a sport and we play it - even dodgeball. We've become like an after-school club," Dan explained.

"We also help young people find employment, giving them advice on job applications and interviews.

"In fact one of our players is actually coming back to work for the agency during the summer," he said proudly.

Despite their best intentions, neither Young People United or Score 4 Sport managed to reach the latter stages of the event after getting knocked out in the group stages.

Despite the disappointment on the pitch, I realised Your Game has been a catalyst for good things for both teams.

For example, Young People United have received funding for tutor training as a direct result of their involvement in Your Game.

Team captain Faz summed up Your Game succinctly: "It's not about winning, it's just the whole experience."

Your Game is a partnership between the BBC and Football Foundation supported by Barclays Spaces for Sports.

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