finally got to visit TUFF FC, The Unity of Faiths Football Club set up by Dr Shamender Talwar and Anna Prior recently. It was an eye opening visit.
The team are part of an anti-radicalisation programme which has been recognised around the world for it’s techniques and success. They have even been invited to play at the Whitehouse by President Obama.
Last year I attended and spoke in Tunisia at a high level conference on security but often what matters just as much are the projects taking place on the ground. It’s here that ideas are developed by people like Shamender and Anna which make a real difference.
While I was visiting the project I spoke to a girl who had been close to getting on a plane to Syria. What kept her in the UK was her love of football.
If the sport can keep her here then it can do the same for others. Once involved in the sport, they are shown how life can be very different to what Daesh/ISIS, or gangs, offer.
They are an amazing group of youngsters. They even let me try some penalties against one of their goalies. I scored! I don’t know whether they let me score out of sympathy but they were so welcoming.
Whitehall doesn`t have all the answers on this issue, it’s local projects like TUFFs and the youngsters themselves who show us what can be done to tackle radicalisation and we should be listening to them more.