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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Gareth Fullerton

West Belfast football club tackling anti-social behaviour with new team

A West Belfast football club is helping tackle anti-social behaviour in its community by launching a new Under 17 team.

St Luke's FC is based at Brook Leisure Centre and currently has senior teams who play in the Amateur League and Intermediate League.

But now the club is looking to extend its outreach to younger players, as there is currently no provision for players over the age of 14 in the Twinbrook area.

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There have also been several incidents of vandalism at the club's home ground, including damage of dugouts and fencing, and parts of the 3g pitch have also been burnt.

"St Luke's is coming up to our 50th anniversary of providing football in Twinbrook. We currently don't have a junior section, but there is a junior element called Glendowan who go up to Under 14 age," explained St Luke's chairman Kevin Kingsmore.

"Our pitch is situated at Brook Leisure Centre. There have been incidents where some young people have been able to get access to the pitch through the fence.

"Most of the time they just want in for a kickabout, but then some damage was caused to the dugouts and changing rooms, and even the 3g pitch was burnt.

"There is an age group in the area who are missing out on playing football, just with the way the current age structures are. So we decided to do something about it.

"It would easy to condemn the young ones causing the damage, but that would be counter productive. We want to give them some ownership of the area and make them feel part of the community.

"There are kids who just want to play football, but there has been no team for them to join and play for. So we did some soul-searching ourselves to help these kids.

"We decided to think outside the box, and we are a community club. So we wanted to provide for these kids.

"We want to give them a platform. We spoke with Glendowan and that's when we identified the gap between Under 14 level and adult football.

"So we want to provide something for these kids who are missing out. We came together and decided we would try and plug a gap.

"We didn't want to jump in too deep, so we have decided to launch an Under 17 team to start with. Glendowan were happy with the plans as well.

"If we can reach out to these kids and make them feel part of the club and their local community, then it will be a success. We can hopefully support them and maybe mentor them.

"We want to keep young people out of trouble. We would rather be working with them than having the police or other statutory bodies getting involved.

"And there is enough bad press about the area, so we decided to do something positive.

"Kids have been trying to get into the pitch to play football. So why don't we try and provide a team for them."

St Luke's identified and spoke to some young people who they believed would be interested in joining the club.

Kevin says the uptake has been positive, and says the club has welcomed more numbers than it initially expected.

"We spoke to the kids and they were excited by the proposals," he added.

"We spoke to them, and we also put an advert out on our social media. We wanted to make it open and transparent, so we advertised for a new manager and explained that we want these lads to feel pride in the club and their community. And it will grow from that.

"We now have the team registered in the South Belfast Youth League and they will compete in that from next season.

"All the kids have wanted to come on board, and we have actually recruited more than we expected. So we have league status and we have numbers.

"This isn't about going out and targeting success and trophies straight away, this is about helping young people in the area and make them feel part of the community.

"The kids will gain from this long-term and the club will also benefit from doing this. And hopefully there is a pathway now from Glendowan right up to our senior team."

Sinn Féin Collin Councillor Séanna Walsh and MLA Danny Baker have shown their support to St Luke's, both in helping launch the new U17 team and also assisting the club following acts of vandalism at the ground.

"There has been so much support which has been great. And we want to help make our home ground a safe area for kids to play football," Kevin said.

"We also want the area to remain vandalism-free. We can provide the football side of things while Séanna and Danny have been working hard on the facilities side of things.

"It's about giving a wee bit back to the community. There was a void for kids of this age, and these young people wanted to play football because they were having to break into the facilities to have a kick-about."

Kevin added: "Anyone interested in joining the team, as a player or manager/coach, please get in touch with the club on our social media pages.

"Send us a message and we will get back in touch with you. We will officially kick-off in the league from next season, and we will start proper training sessions this summer."


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