'Football kept me out of jail': Ex-QPR player's mission to help young people
- Credit: PA
An ex-professional sportsman who grew up in Canning Town is using his role as the chairman of a football club to help disadvantaged youngsters stay off the streets and avoid knife crime.
Patrick Kanyuka, who was a pupil at Eastlea Community School, established Waltham Cross FC five months ago with a firm focus on giving young players a chance.
The former Queens Park Rangers footballer said: "I've met a number of talented youngsters who find opportunities and facilities limited, with people often taking advantage of them.
"And that just burnt me."
Patrick said four youth footballers travel with the first team every week to give them a taste of a senior matchday and aid their development.
His ambition also extends to helping footballers who fail to become professional find a job within the industry: "I’ve got my senior players into coaching courses and coaching the youth.
"I am also building connections with clubs, including QPR, so I can refer youngsters elsewhere and secure them jobs in coaching, media and other roles in football."
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Patrick's project draws on his personal experience growing up in Canning Town, where he avoided crime through the distraction of football.
"I was so lucky. Football kept me out of jail."
Patrick's career started at QPR in 2005, but transferring to lower-league Swindon Town and Northampton Town encouraged him to move abroad.
"I didn’t understand football until I moved to Champions League side, Cluj [in Romania]," Kanyuka said. "The style of football was advanced compared to the old-fashioned English game and I was getting recognised everywhere."
Although inspired by the more different tactics, he said he dealt with persistent racism.
"There were nights when I would be in tears but when I got back on the pitch I remained professional," he said.
In contrast, Patrick said his spell in Thailand, playing for Roi Et FC and Police United, as being "like a holiday playing my favourite hobby".
He said his experience in football has helped Waltham Cross FC develop rapidly, with a manager, eight coaches, an assistant and a treasurer already on the payroll, while trials are being held for nine youth teams.
Patrick said a few people have encouraged him to write a book or start a podcast, but he told the Recorder: "Not yet! I am going to wait until this has developed and let my actions speak volumes."