Aspirations programme: Roehampton footballer signs with Championship team, inspires local young people

Published: Friday 17th February 17

A promising young striker from the Alton estate who signed with Championship team Cardiff City returned to Roehampton this week to encourage the next generation of footballers.

Ibrahim Meite (centre) at Roehampton Youth Centre; image by Sean Pollock

Ibrahim Meite, 20, grew up in Roehampton, and with the support of the council’s youth services over the years his interests in football and keeping fit helped steer him out of trouble. 

On Wednesday (15 February) he was at Roehampton Youth Centre, on Holybourne Avenue, to watch talented local youngsters take on visitors from Battersea in a five-a-side tournament, along with Cllr Steffi Sutters. 

Ibrahim, who presented medals to the winning and runner-up teams, said: “It’s always good coming back to Roehampton, to give back to the community where I come from and help show the way to younger ones. I just hope that when they upgrade Roehampton they can add a few football-related things to help distract them from trouble.”

A new multi-use games area is proposed to be built alongside new facilities for Roehampton Youth Centre and the Base youth hub on Danebury Avenue. This is part of the council’s redevelopment of parts of the Alton estate to build approximately 1,000 new homes, with all council tenants and owner-occupiers guaranteed a newly-built one on their estate; a new library and retail area both twice the size of existing provision; a new community and wellness centre; a new park and play areas; more affordable housing and homes for sale, all during the next ten years and subject to planning permission.

During the event, Cllr Sutters thanked the council youth workers who had helped organise the tournament, as well as those who played a role in supporting Ibrahim into a professional footballing career. 

She said: “Through the support of his family, council youth services and his agent, and not least his own determination, Ibrahim is an example to other young people in Roehampton, and Wandsworth, of what’s achievable when talent is encouraged and developed through hard work. This is a great example for the Aspirations programme, of how council youth workers can be part of helping local young people into opportunity.” 

Providing targeted employment and training support, new homes, and access to sporting and cultural opportunities are key elements of the council’s Aspirations programme to improve life chances. It began in 2012 with a focus on the Alton estate in Roehampton, and the Winstanley and York Road estates, in Battersea, and has also provided seed funding to local organisations in Roehampton listed here.  

Roehampton takes on Battersea; image by Sean Pollock

It was last summer that Ibrahim joined the AG football academy of sports agent Godfrey Torto, and soon started playing for non-league side Harrow Borough with whom he reached the first round of the FA Cup. Godfrey and Wandsworth Council youth worker Emmanuel Sempa had set Ibrahim a target of scoring 15 goals for Harrow Borough by Christmas, which he duly smashed well ahead of schedule.  

This earned the young forward a trial in October with 2015/16 Premiership champions Leicester City, before finally moving to Cardiff City in January this year.

Ibrahim – nicknamed the Shark for his predatory goal-scoring prowess – has been signed to a contract running until the summer of 2018, and is expected to make an impact starting out as a subsititute. 

Emmanuel said: “Roehampton Youth Club and The Base youth hub are like pillars in the community - Ibrahim is one of many young people who have come in that we have helped get jobs, into college, to progress to university. If you want to become a professional footballer, you’re going to need a work ethic to get you there. The most important thing is for others to know that there are opportunities out there if you’ve got the talent and the attitude to achieve.”

The tournament was part-funded by national charity StreetGames, through the Doorstep Sports programme.

Ibrahim Meite visited Roehampton Youth Centre on 15 February, image by Sean Pollock

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