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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 September 2007, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Your Game descends on Downing Street
The Your Game All-Stars line up with new recruits Darling and Brown
The Your Game All-Stars line up with new recruits Darling and Brown

By Alistair Magowan

It might have looked more like an invasion by the Dutch football team but Prime Minister Gordon Brown welcomed a team of community leaders to Downing Street on Wednesday for playing their part in Your Game.

The PM popped next door to Number 11 to join chancellor Alistair Darling in congratulating the team, dressed in orange, who will continue the legacy of the social inclusion project in Africa later this month.

Your Game, a partnership between the BBC and the Football Foundation with support from Barclays Spaces for Sports, has used football and music festivals to inspire young people in hard-to-reach communities across England over the past two years.

But now the project is set to take its best assets to Namibia to help them learn new skills and organise the first Your Game festival on a global scale.

Your Game is a unique nationwide street football and music festival across England
It is designed to provide new opportunities for young people from socially disadvantaged groups in society
The 2007 tournament had ten regional competitions with 2,400 players competing
150 participants have enrolled on FA coaching and refereeing courses

The festival will take place alongside "Next Step", a global sporting conference organised by UK Sport, which will feature former athletics stars such as Dame Kelly Holmes, Ed Moses and Frankie Fredericks.

It will also bring together organisations like the International Olympic Committee, FIFA and the UN and give them an equal placing alongside grass-roots projects from across the globe.

The idea is to share ideas on how sport can address social problems and show how powerful a tool it can be in recruiting those who otherwise feel marginalised.

It is a subject well understood by Terence Wallen who is one of the All-Stars due to fly out to Africa.

When he is not rubbing shoulders with the country's leading politicians, he works for a group which supports people with HIV/AIDS in Birmingham.

And while he was pleasantly surprised by the interest of the Prime Minister, he is hoping to use the trip to Namibia to extend his local network.

"Today has been excellent. It's proven that these guys that sit at the top of our country are interested in grass-roots initiatives," he said.

Terrance Wallen from Birmingham
I told the PM how big Your Game is and if he didn't hear me I'll send him an email to repeat it again!

Terence Wallen

"It's exciting and I'm really looking forward to going to Namibia. I'll learn a whole lot out there but I'm hoping I can share some of my skills and set up some cultural exchanges.

"I'm excited about meeting the people most of all. I want to share my experience and share my love really!"

Zaynab Ahmed from Liverpool will also be going on the trip after entering a team - the Liverpool Muslim Ladies - into the Your Game tournament in 2006.

"I can't wait to meet the people out there so I can exchange ideas and see what they are doing across the world," she said.

"It's going to be a great experience. I'm going to try and grab a few bits and bobs from every person I meet and come back and share it with Liverpool.

The trip aside, the All-Stars were lapping up the reception at 11 Downing Street as they presented the Prime Minister and the chancellor with their very own orange All-Star shirts.

Alistair M - BBC Sport

The ministers present joined the PM and the Chancellor in thanking the All-Stars for all their effort in establishing Your Game over the past two years and encouraged them to spread the message of its success far and wide.

But the meeting also gave the All-Stars the chance to make their feelings clear and ensure that Your Game continues to build on a domestic level.

"It's nice to see what the Prime Minister is like and to know that they're supporting what we're doing in the community," said Ahmed.

"It's definitely more than just football and I think it's more of an eye opener for the government than us in the community, because we've been trying to get the government to hear us.

"It's about building a bridge between Your Game, the BBC, Barclays, the Football Foundation and everyone else involved and it's trying to tie that all in together and saying, 'look, this is what we do.' It's not really been recognised in the past."

All-Stars Terrance Wallen and Kyle Stewart
All-Stars Terrance Wallen and Kyle Stewart get one for the picture book

And according to Wallen, it is not just the government who has seemed out of touch to community leaders like himself.

"I can't really compare Your Game to any other project," he said. "It's innovative and it's breaking stigmas because not many people thought the BBC cared, in fairness.

"They've never come across as a caring public service broadcaster for the people I work with. But for our community, Your Game has come along and done massive work with us - they've probably done more in two years than a lot of organisations have done in 20 years.

"There's nothing like Your Game. It's not just about what happens on the day, it's about what happens afterwards and we've all been able to benefit from Your Game.

"Look at us here today - we're at number 11 Downing Street!

"It's opened up the eyes of the people I work with. It's given them opportunities. A lot of the lads I work with are doing football coaching, certificates in volunteering - so many different areas other than just playing football.

"I told the PM how big Your Game is and if he didn't hear me I'll send him an email to repeat it again!"

Pictures as Your Game visits the PM
06 Sep 07 |  Your Game
The Your Game legacy
11 Jul 07 |  Your Game
London teams top of Your Game
16 Jul 07 |  Your Game
Chelsea fan coaching for the Toon
18 Jul 07 |  Your Game


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