“Who is your favourite Disney princess?” is not the typical question a professional footballer gets asked. Yet 11-year-old Hadija asked just that to Brentford’s goalkeeper Luke Daniels a couple of weeks ago. Luke, a 32-year-old goalkeeper with hundreds of league games and England youth international caps to his name, was taking part in Brentford FC Community Sports Trust’s Short Breaks project.
Short Breaks, which supports children with special educational needs, has gone online while the government has imposed restrictions on movement. Luke was lending a hand at a session while he could not train with the rest of his team mates. Along with questions regarding Disney princesses, he was quizzed on his favourite cereal and book before turning quizmaster himself.
Ghausia Amin, Deputy Education Manager of Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, said: “Hadia was animated in the session with Luke, giving her the opportunity to develop her social and communication skills, speaking and engaging confidently. She is particularly missing school and her friends; therefore, with Luke joining in the session there was an opportunity for a new and fun experience – while in lockdown.”
Yet Luke isn’t the only Brentford player who has supported children and young people during this difficult period. Ethan Pinnock offered pearls of wisdom to budding young footballers on the Trust's post-16 football education programme through an online Q and A and Ollie Watkins spoke to ardent Brentford fan Callum about the benefits of activity packs delivered in to estates by the Trust. Josh Dasilva showcased his skills by challenging Trust participants to beat his total of 239 keepie-uppies in two minutes and six seconds.
All the activities are part of the Trust’s #BeeatHome campaign that was launched at the end of March in response to the Covid-19 crisis. With the government restricting all but essential across the UK, Brentford FC’s award-winning charity began to migrate all its front-line community activity online. And as a football club that prides itself on its community spirit, is it no surprise that Brentford players took up the challenge of supporting children and young people during the government lockdown.
Lee Doyle, Chief Executive of Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, said: “The interaction between the players, our participants and coaches has added a brilliant dimension to the sessions. The candid comments have provided our post-16 education students with an insight into the commitment required to succeed. In turn, some of the feedback from our participants show the high esteem in which the players are held and may help to add something extra to their performance when the campaign resumes.”
Newly-signed Tariqe Fosu helped run a football session for children from the Trust's Football Development Centre and joined Sergi Canós, Dominic Thompson and Dasilva to record messages to promote community projects online. Shandon Baptiste helped Hounslow Council with some Stay at Home messaging by taking part in an Instagram takeover while Watkins, Pinnock, Canós, Fosu and Christian Nørgaard have spoken directly to or recorded messages for fans over the past two months. Others, including Team Captain Pontus Jansson and defender Rico Henry have helped out with special birthday messages.
Brentford FC prides itself on its players’ involvement in the local community. Recent recognition includes that, in 2019, its player ambassador project was shortlisted at the London Football Awards for “Community Project of the Year”.