Jean Pardoe, Connexions Nottinghamshire's CEO and Chair of the Unity Football Project, is delighted to announce that Morris Samuels, Manager of the Unity Football Project, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to young people in Nottingham.
Several years ago Nottingham became recognised nationally for the wrong reasons, namely gun crime and violent gang rivalry involving young men from three specific areas of Nottingham, St Ann's, the Meadows and Radford. A number of young people were murdered and many were seriously injured and despite intense activity by the police and other partner agencies the violence and rivalry went on for some years.
Morris Samuels was a local youth worker who at the time was living in St Ann’s, Nottingham, and the horrific murder of 14 year old Danielle Beccan triggered his vision of breaking down the barriers between rival gangs by bringing young men together to play in the same football team. He used his inter-personal skills, local knowledge and experience from being a semi-professional footballer and coach, to engage the young men, arrange educational football matches and win their trust. His success in diverting these young people away from crime and violence was subsequently recognised and the Unity Project became his full time job in 2007. As well as leading Unity in an inspirational and motivating manner, Morris still gives freely of his time to support young people in trouble and worried parents frequently knock on his door.
An example of how Unity operates: As part of the preparation for the senior team to play a Nottingham Forest team at the City Ground in May 2010, in order to win one of the highly prized places, members of the squad had to demonstrate to Morris their commitment to getting involved with the local communities. One of things Morris set up was visits to the Children’s Ward at the QMC, prior to which the lads did sponsored events to enable them to raise money for the Ward and to take gifts to the children. Morris wished to demonstrate to the young men that whilst they have choices in life many of the sick children have had their choices taken away from them. He believes in the value of showing young people, who might go off the rails, that there is another way forward and the Unity Project offers them some of those choices.
Since its inception, Unity has received considerable media attention, winning the BBC Power of Sport Award in 2009.
More on the Nottingham Evening Post site or check out the BBC Nottingham page.