Since 2012 Nightingales has been working with young men to help keep them in education, help them make positive life choices and help them not get caught up in trafficking young girls and women for a living.
The project started with 6 young men playing in a local futsal (6-a-side indoor football) league. These young men were having problems with drugs, school and finding a direction for their lives! Playing in a football team gave them a focus, a direction and also a reason not to take drugs or get drunk, as they were not allowed to play if they were high. We quickly realised that through training we had a platform where we could teach these young people how to make decision on the pitch and in life. Every training session is based around a skill we are trying to develop for the team on the pitch, and linked to a skill in life that can help them outside of football.
The more time that was spent with these young men the more we realised the positive influence the football programme was having on their lives. Their friends started coming too and by September 2014, we had over 80 young people attending our sessions, so we set up our own league. Today we have over 100 young people, we also have a female team, participating in our league. The emphasis is still the same, what can we teach these young men, through football, that will have a lasting impact on their lives. At their insistance the project was given the name ‘Academia Emaus’, translated to the ‘Emmaus Academy’.
From the original six players, one is attending university, four are in full time employment and one has just finished qualifying as a truck driver. Three of them have come through a qualification which has given them the skills to mentor others through football. As a team they may not have won any prizes, but in life they are all winners, making positive choices which effect them and those around them.