Education is key within our Academy framework. We are consistently preparing young players to be the very best they can be, both on and off the pitch.
And our U15s continued their educational journey with the next instalment of a Football for Freedom project earlier this month.
The young budding first team stars took a trip to London's Docklands area where they were treated to a series of seminars from a team from 'Justice and Care'.
Justice and Care rescues victims of slavery and human trafficking and aim to rebuild their lives. They help the police to pursue and dismantle criminal networks and bring perpetrators to justice and they secure communities at risk from traffickers and spark systemic change.
Internationally, the charity bring together world-class specialists – including social workers, lawyers, and researchers and then work to prevent crime, protect victims, secure justice and bring about changes in practice, laws and systems.
Ex-police officer James Hensman added insight to the session and also there to lend a perspective was Sierra Leone-born former professional footballer Al Bangura, who had a raw and very personal tale of human trafficking and asylum-seeking to tell the players.
Building these experiences into the journeys of these young footballers is an essential part of ensuring they engage in a variety of subjects and situations beyond those they are encountering on the pitch.
Our Under-15s demonstrated wonderful maturity, listening and processing all the information that was given to them on the day and acting as excellent ambassadors for the club.
This special visit came on the back of a trip to Liverpool’s Albert Dock earlier this year where our Under-15s spent some time learning about both historical and contemporary slavery at the International Slavery Museum.
And these educational excursions are a series of instalments within a season-long programme for our youngsters that is themed around freedom and justice, sacrifice, togetherness and appreciating opportunity.
Next year, the team plan to visit Ghana for some football fixtures as well as visiting sites of historical significance in a country which was impacted hugely as a consequence of the transatlantic slave trade.
Julia Immonen, World Record Atlantic Rower and representative of Justice and Care, said: “We were so thrilled to team up with Reading FC on all things football and tackling slavery through ‘Football for Freedom’, an initiative of Justice and Care. We had an interactive educational training session, equipping the next generation of young players to engage with global issues in our society in the form of modern-day slavery and human trafficking.”
Al Bangura, Justice and Care Ambassador, added: “Football gave me freedom. I was trafficked from Guinea when I was 14 years old. When I looked at a football I felt free. Football gave me hope. I am incredibly proud to work with Justice and Care in helping to educate others on the dangers of human trafficking”.
For more information about Justice and Care, visit justiceandcare.org.