Friday 11 December 2020 9:02 am

Spurs' Jessica Naz and Harry Kane are scoring goals for good

The club motto is Audere est Facere. To dare is to do. For two of its top players – Jessica Naz and Harry Kane – this means acting decisively not only on the pitch, but off, as they roll up their sleeves to get involved with Tottenham Hotspur Foundation (THF). They’re strikers who care as well as dare.

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Both are local kids made good – Kane the goal-scoring icon for a generation of Spurs and England fans, and Naz bristling with potential as a youth international and part of the club’s Women’s Super League side on the rise. Both are as committed to being role models and giving back to their communities off the park as they are to earning their adulation on it.

For 14 years, the Foundation has used the power of football to reach into the four multicultural London boroughs and 1.2 million people it serves, tackling their struggles, creating work, battling socio-economic hardship and promoting health and wellbeing. It has been supported by a total of £3.1 million in funding from Postcode Heroes Trust since 2013.

“I grew up local to Tottenham, so it means a lot to me – seeing what a difference this can make,” says 21-year-old Jessica Naz. “Some of the people I’ve met through the Foundation haven’t had it easy in life. It can be difficult hearing stories about what they’ve been through, many of them from a young age. 

“But when you speak to people who are in a better place now and overcoming some of those challenges, it’s really inspiring. And that’s with the help of the Foundation.  

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 13: <> during the re-launch of the Premier League Kicks campaign at Dukes Aldridge Academy on August 13, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

“I helped out at a girls football tournament hosted by the Foundation in February. It was amazing to see so many girls there –about 18 teams – and I ended up coaching one of the teams. 

“I spoke a lot to the girls on the day about how they have more female athletes to look up to now more than ever. And more opportunities to get involved. Many of these girls will have faced obstacles in their lives, but we’re breaking down those barriers.

“There’s also a far wider cultural mix in the game now too – at these events it’s good to see every race, every religion represented, and that’s got to be pushed. Some people might be afraid to get involved in the community because of the colour of their skin or their faith. The Foundation takes away that fear, and that’s massive for me. We get everyone involved, we create access.” 

The game itself might be the vehicle the Foundation uses to drive its message, but it is acutely aware of how positive its work can be in neighbourhoods ranking high on the government’s index of multiple deprivation – especially its programmes around employability and health and wellbeing. 

“I grew up round the corner in Chingford,” explains Harry Kane, “not far from where the Foundation does a lot of work. There was a sense of family and community which I’ve taken forward with me. Outreach with the Foundation gives me a platform to hopefully create the same excitement and inspiration that I felt as a kid meeting a professional player.

WOOD GREEN, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 20: Jess Naz and Jenna Schillaci of Tottenham Hotspur Women attend at Tottenham Hotspur Foundation girls football tournament at New River Sports Centre on February 20, 2020 in Wood Green, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

“I’m always struck when I see the positive impact the Foundation has on people. We were one of the first clubs to pilot the Premier League Kicks programme back in 2006, and in summer 2019 we ran an event celebrating its success. 

“The Mayor of London was there, but the people who inspired me that day were the coaches who actually started out as Kicks participants – they came up through the programme and now work for the Foundation. It just goes to show what these young people can achieve with the right mentoring and support.”

Serious about social responsibility

Both Naz and Kane are shining examples of a greater truth too rarely recognised – that the game’s professionals take their social responsibilities seriously. “Look at what Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford achieved over the summer and again in autumn, when he challenged the government over school meals during the Covid pandemic,” exclaims Naz. “He fought for the rights of children up and down the country. 

“What he did was fantastic, and I’m glad he was properly recognised for it. He has a huge platform, probably even bigger now than before, and I respect him for using that to do good and shine a light on such an important issue. It showed the impact players can have off the pitch – how powerful it can be when sportspeople get behind worthy causes. It definitely inspired me. As players we need to use our platform to spread positivity and raise awareness of important issues.

“A lot of people look up to us, especially kids, the way I did with Rachel Yankey and Kelly Smith when I was younger. So we need to keep setting an example by supporting good causes. When you combine this with other aspects of being an athlete – hard work, commitment, resilience –we can set a really strong example to the next generation.

“Community is an important part of that – creating unity within the area you live in. When I used to play football with my brother, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t a male. They embraced me in the community as a footballer. That gave me confidence to go out to my local park and play without being judged. I’d like to think that young girls look up to us professional female footballers and feel that they can follow their dreams, no matter what obstacles they may face.”

“As sportspeople and role models, it’s important we give back and raise awareness of important issues,” says Spurs striking hero Harry Kane. “And the Covid-19 pandemic has helped people see some of the best of us all.

“From my own experience, the Premier League Players Together initiative is something I’m very proud to have been involved in during the pandemic. I think it’s a great example of players working collectively and trying to help people in need as quickly and effectively as possible.”

WOOD GREEN, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 20: Jess Naz and Jenna Schillaci of Tottenham Hotspur Women attend at Tottenham Hotspur Foundation girls football tournament at New River Sports Centre on February 20, 2020 in Wood Green, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Spurs’ efforts during the pandemic have been substantial. The club threw open the doors of its state-of-the-art new stadium to the local hospital for critical clinical use, hosting tens of thousands of appointments to create capacity where needed. And working with local councils and other charities, it turned part of the campus into a food hub to help the most vulnerable in the surrounding communities. 

“As an area, Tottenham has had some well-known struggles in the past,” Kane adds, “and challenges remain today, which can be tough to see and hear about. But with the new stadium having opened last year, there’s a lot of hope and it seems the area is changing for the better. It has already created thousands of jobs for local people –
that will carry on and local people will continue to benefit.

“Many people I’ve met through working with the Foundation have been dealt a difficult hand in life and didn’t have the opportunities many of us take for granted. They just need a bit of support or someone to see their potential. The Foundation is looking to give them a break and it’s always inspiring to see how people benefit
from that.”

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