We often look at professional footballers and are in awe of their ability and skill set, some possess a talent that appears to be other-worldly. But when you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that just like you and I, they too have grown up kicking a football at mini-7-a-side tournaments on a rainy Saturday morning. Of course, more times than not, they will be scooped up by an academy where the level increases, but that's not to say that their grassroots upbringing didn’t mould them into the footballers you see today. One player that can attest to the importance of the grind growing up, is Manchester City and England forward Raheem Sterling.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica before his family made the move to Wembley, Sterling has mentioned in previous interviews of the struggles growing up in a single-parent household in the city. Raheem like many of us fell into a common cycle of going to school, not really enjoying it, then misbehaving. The only saving grace and main attraction of even going in was after 3pm, as he recalls grabbing chicken and chips from the chicken shop, then having a kick about with mates on the grass behind his house.
Raheem has talked about the difficulty of growing up in his formative years without a father figure (who sadly passed away when he was a young kid), but someone who took on that role as a key figure in his life was Clive Ellington. Clive was a teacher at Sterling’s school at the time and after realising young Raheem's passion and ability for football, decided to take him under his wing. Clive ran a Sunday league team at the time and invited a baby-faced Raheem down to training and matches, to nurture his noticeable talent. He only asked for Raheem's commitment and maturity in return. Still to this day Clive coaches young kids all the fundamentals of football and the importance of practicing your trade - holding claim to one of the best forwards in the world in his alumni, I’m sure the new recruits hang on to his every word.
Alpha and Omega F.C has been run for over 26 years by Clive and helps mould young footballers in to *hopefully* more stars of the future. Clive’s passion and dedication for his self-described football family, are what make him such a respected member of the local and wider community.
Photography by Ali Yaqub.