15 October 2019 | North West England
Inspirational football club is about so much more than sport
June Kelly is the driving force behind one of the most inspirational football clubs in Britain.
She set up Abraham Moss Warriors to give young people in Cheetham Hill, Manchester the chance to play the game.
But right from the beginning, the club was about much more than scoring goals and winning matches.
"I started the Warriors to give young people something positive to do in the community," says June.
She used football to promote numeracy and literacy, helping underachieving boys in the team become more interested in reading and learning. A thriving science club was set up and she holds workshops on drugs, gang awareness, anti-bullying and healthy lifestyles.
She also helped to bring in the only FA rule change in more than 50 years – to allow players to miss matches if they were fasting during Ramadan.
Her positive impact was so great that she was presented with Pride of Britain’s FA Football Champion Award by England 1966 World Cup winners in 2013. As part of the show, she also visited Buckingham Palace with football ace Michael Owen, where she met Prince William.
June set up the club in 2001 because she was frustrated by the lack of facilities in Cheetham Hill.
Today she offers football opportunities for around 450 children and 200 adults across 21 teams.
After she was recognised at Pride of Britain, the scheme attracted funding and grew to offer dozens of other sporting activities including basketball, cricket and athletics embracing whole families. Parents and siblings come down to the centre to enjoy team sports together while the kids played football. They even teach parents to cycle so they can take out their children on bikes and keep fit.
Now June’s inspirational football club faces a new challenge. Due to a change in circumstances she is urgently looking for new premises to carry on her good work. They have been forced to leave the facilities they use at Manchester Communication Academy as the school has increased the fees it charges to play on their floodlit pitch by 300%.
“Until six months ago, everything was fantastic,” says June. “But we are now looking for a new premises. I am already having to cut back on our number of teams which is a real shame.”
For now they will play in nearby Smedley Lane Playing Fields. But the new location doesn’t have changing rooms or toilet facilities. The primary school where they will hold the other sports, only has one room, rather than the four courts that the academy boasts.
Young player Vincent Coal said. “I really hope I can continue to come. I love playing football, and it helps me stay fit and make friends. My brother and dad also like coming along. My brother plays football and my dad does badminton.”
June adds: “What we do is so much more than football - we even do a litter pick once a month. The kids come out and clean up, because we have taught them to be respectful about the community they live in. At the end of the day, that is what it is all about, our community thriving and being the best we can be.”