Founder of Hackney Wick FC Bobby Kasanga with some of his players
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From groundshare to grand stadium: Hackney Wick FC’s campaign for a permanent home

Hackney Wick FC, a community-based football club committed to steering youth away from gang violence, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to secure its future. 

Sponsored by Netflix’s hit crime series Top Boy, Hackney Wick FC is a team like no other, trailblazing both semi-professional football and life-changing community outreach in east London.

Bobby Kasanga founded the club in 2015 to tackle gang culture and drug abuse among disenfranchised young people in the inner city. He had been released from an eight-year prison sentence for armed robbery and wanted to turn his own life around while providing a lifeline for young people vulnerable to the world of crime.

The club is run entirely by volunteers, who engage directly with young people from diverse backgrounds involved in or susceptible to gangs. With educational workshops, mentoring, access-to-work routes, fitness programmes and football, the volunteers have dedicated their all to keeping children and teens on the straight and narrow.

Child poverty in Hackney stands at 43% according to Trust for London, surpassing the London average by 10%. With many children growing up in deprived conditions, the necessity for uplifting community hubs becomes more urgent.

Kasanga built Hackney Wick FC from the ground up, forming the borough’s first semi-professional football club. In nine years, he’s accumulated over 250 active players across 18 teams, but the club is missing a vital resource, hindering its growth.

Bobby Kasanga, founder of Hackney Wick FC, a semi-professional football club with a community ethos
Bobby Kasanga founded Hackney’s only semi-professional football team in 2015

The club lacks a dedicated football pitch, meaning it’s had to ground-share with Witham Town in Essex, 35 miles away from local players in east London. Hackney is the only borough in the capital without a football ground of semi-professional standard, depriving young talent of the opportunity to progress their game to the next stage.

Kasanga has found a viable space to build a stadium in Essex, but he needs the full backing of our community to make it happen. To sustain the long-term independence of the club, Hackney Wick FC is campaigning to raise £400,000 within a year.

‘We’re the only borough in London without its own sports ground, so no football club progress to a higher level,’ says Kasanga. ‘We have to leave the borough and be at the mercy of other clubs, and when they want to change direction or increase prices, we’re kicked out and moved.’

We’re shining a light on these young people, we keep them out of trouble and provide them with opportunities.

bobby kasanga

The men’s first team recently ranked 8th in the Thurlow Nunn Division One South League, an outstanding achievement for a squad with an average age of 20. Most of the players progressed to the team from their days at The Hackney Wick FC Academy, delivered from Loughborough University London at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

‘To finish eighth in the league out of 22 teams is amazing for such a young team,’ says Kasanga. ‘For eight to nine years, we’ve kept them occupied and dedicated, and a few boys have been signed for professional clubs. We’re shining a light on these young people, we keep them out of trouble and provide them with opportunities.’

As well as developing the men’s game at the grassroots level, Hackney Wick FC is committed to providing opportunities for women and girls in football, with teams for adults, under-18s, under-16s, under-12s and a mixed team for younger children.

Kasanga said: ‘Women’s football has been a big part of our DNA from the beginning. When we launched in 2015, we launched for men and women at the same time, we weren’t waiting for the women’s game to develop.’

In December 2023, everyone at Hackney Wick FC welcomed the news that star girl Kaily had been signed for the Arsenal Academy under-nines team.

As well as developing future football stars at Hackney Wick FC, Kasanga runs Think Outside the Blox, an anti-youth violence initiative designed to improve the prospects of underprivileged Londoners, who might be on the brink of gang culture.

Think Outside the Blox runs a community centre at the Northwold Estate in Clapton, providing a range of services for young people in the area, from a dedicated homework club to networking events with leading community activists like Faron Paul and Raspect.

Despite supporting underprivileged children and teens in east London for nine years, Kasanga hasn’t received much support from Hackney Council. ‘They’re not doing enough at all. We’re doing all this work through the backend, from other commercial companies, like Nike and Netflix,’ says Kasanga, referring to some of the high-profile sponsorships that have kept Hackney Wick FC alive.

‘We’re doing a lot of jobs for [the council], in terms of health, tackling obesity, getting young people off the streets, out of trouble and giving them a place to go. We’re ticking the boxes that the council need, but we’re not getting much traction from them.’

Now, it’s up to us to save the future of Hackney Wick FC, the football club and community lifeline that has changed the lives of hundreds of young people, allowing them to unleash their unlimited potential.

Donate to the fundraiser here

For more local news, read about the Peabody tenants who ‘unsafe’ in their own homes after disrepair issues go unresolved for months

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