First-team managers at Tooting & Mitcham United FC (TMUFC), Ashley Bosah and Cornelius Nwadialor, have been commended by the London Borough of Merton for their work in providing role models for young people and helping to bridge the social gap in the borough.
The pair, who were this month recognised along with England forward Marcus Rashford in the annual “Black List” of influential black sporting role models, dedicate their time to not only running the first team at the club, but also in developing young players in the youth academy of more than 70 young hopefuls.
The recognition from the council is as much for the work they do beyond the touchline as on it. As a local community club in a disadvantaged part of London, TMUFC offers much more than football to young players. It offers stability, role models and a chance for young people in the area to determine their own path.
The academy, which is home-from-home to more than 70 boys up to the age of 18, is run very much as a family, with boys unable to compete on the pitch unless they have completed any homework, club or education tasks they have been given.
In return, Ashley and Cornelius regularly go the extra mile, being there to support the boys both on and off the pitch, helping guide them towards a stable path, giving advice and guidance, and encouraging them to be the best they can.
Additionally, the club offers the best incentive of all – the prospect of success in the upper leagues. Past academy graduates include Samuel Folarin and Isaiah Jones, both of whom have just signed new contracts at Middlesbrough FC, as well as Hady Ghandour of Charlton FC and Michail Antonio of West Ham United.
Other former players who came from tough backgrounds have also opted to go onto achieve university degrees in business, finance and psychology as a result of the education they received at the club. Next year, TMUFC hopes to launch a degree course in-house for players.
Mark Allison, Leader of Merton Council, said: “Tooting & Mitcham is more than a football club; I’ve seen several times the work they do in the community with young players, and to be able to recognise the work Ashley and Cornelius do was as much an honour for us as for them; this is what they do day in, day out, and the difference they make is profound.
“The Council has always been proud that one of our top priorities is to bridge the social gap in the borough, and to support and recognise those who help to achieve that.
“There are more than 70 boys in the borough who are getting expert training, a future and education, and a stable environment because of the work the club does. We’re delighted to be able to recognise their work.”
Co-Manager Ashley Bosah commented: “With being recognised on the Black List and then having our work recognised locally by the council, it’s been a pretty amazing month.
“The work we do off the pitch is every bit as important as the work the boys do on it. Our lads are often not from the more privileged backgrounds that some of their opponents have enjoyed, and helping develop them as young individuals is every bit as much of what we do as what happens when the match kicks off.
“Seeing them grow, develop, and succeed – whether it’s with a league club or going off to achieve at university, is an amazing experience.”
Cornelius added: “It’s fantastic that the work everyone at TMUFC does is being recognised, both nationally and locally. It feels like one big family here, and it’s great to see the club get recognition for the non-football side of things, which is just as important as what happens on the pitch.”