SMETHWICK teenagers recently took on local police officers in a friendly football match designed to break down barriers.
The club’s official charity partner, The Albion Foundation, operates Kickz - an inclusion project which aims to create safer and stronger communities in targeted areas of high youth crime and anti-social behaviour.
Albion Kickz provides free positive activities to people aged between 12 and 18 years at seven different venues across Sandwell.
The youngsters recorded a 4-1 victory over the police team, which also featured a number of Albion Foundation Kickz staff.
The match took place at Hadley Stadium – where facilities manager, Wendell Deacon, kindly offered to host the fixture.
Young people were selected to play in the game based on their attitude and attendance at weekly sessions.
Smethwick-based sessions witness outstanding support from police officers, PC Dave Harnett and Sgt Paul Shannaghan, who are both based in the Soho and Victoria Ward.
“During the last financial year, crime was reduced by 20 per cent on the previous year,” said Sgt Shannaghan.
“Reports of anti-social behaviour were half of what they were two years previous and the biggest reductions in the ASB is in the evenings and times where Kicks projects are running.
“Kickz are providing many alternatives for the young people of my area and they have gained the trust and confidence of many ethnic groups.
“Lads from many different countries, backgrounds, and religions are playing in a game of football together with no pre-judgement about each other.
“Over the last year many Police officers have been taking part in sessions and this has helped build relationships with participants which we were finding impossible to build before.
“Youths have now said “these coppers are alright”, which I believe has resulted in the police now being seen as the people behind the uniform.
“I personally feel that through the work of Albion Kicks we have prevented many young people from joining criminal gangs and feel that due to the work done by Kickz, this has or will prevent participants being involved in serious criminal activity.”