Hornchurch Tigers Junior FC nominated for London Sport Awards

Owen Skinner

Owen Skinner is on the Tigers Futures scheme, which has been shortlisted for the London Sport Awards - Credit: Keith Di Palma

A Hornchurch football scheme has been shortlisted for a London-wide award.

Tigers Junior Football Club was nominated for the London Sport Awards 2021 for its Tigers Futures programmes, which helps young people to become coaches and referees.

Tigers Futures

The Tiger Futures programme of the Tigers Junior Football Club has been nominated for the London Sports Awards. Pictured: Alfie Atkinson (l), Owen Keen, Charlie Wiggins, Leigh Gell, Max Young, Alex Jones, Connor Smith, Evie Doherty, Christy Shields, George Bryant, Emily Gray, Alfie Sedge, James Gallagher, Amber Le-Beau, Henry Lacey and Regan Allen (r). - Credit: Keith Di Palma

Tigers' chairman Keith Di Palma said it was an "honour" to have been shortlisted in The Enhancing the Workforce Award category.

He told this paper: "We were absolutely gobsmacked.

"To get into the final of the awards really hit home that we've done a good thing for the community."

Keith and Lisa Di Palma

Keith and Lisa Di Palma have run Tigers Junior Football Club for the past 23 years - Credit: Keith Di Palma


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London Sport chair Jillian Moore added: “The efforts of our shortlisted nominees have helped make a big difference through the power of sport and physical activity.

"I want to congratulate you all for your outstanding contribution to your communities and wish you the best of luck during this year’s ceremony.”

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Keith and his wife Lisa, who is club secretary, have been involved in the football club for the past 23 years.

The couple launched the Tigers Futures scheme seven years ago, offering free training and support for people aged 14 or over to gain other skills in football.

Keith explained: "There was a lot of antisocial behaviour, and it was a way of getting young people off the street.

"It's all free, and they come to training sessions for younger players, help out with activities and run sessions themselves."

Tigers Futures

Tigers Futures offers free training for young people to become football referees and coaches - Credit: Keith Di Palma

Each year, around six or seven new referees qualify from the programme, and the club pays for their formal qualifications when they turn 16.

"It's just gone from strength to strength," Keith added.

"Some people who join at 14 are really shy and quiet, and Tigers Futures gives them so much more confidence.

"We get such good feedback from parents, who are grateful for what we do."

Local companies, including Hornchurch's Trophyland and Sovereign Home Improvements, have provided the young people with referee kits.

Both Lisa and Ford Motor Club worker Keith, who works day and night shifts, are volunteers and Keith said all money made from the Tigers goes back to the children.

Alfie

Keith and Lisa's grandson Alfie joined the club three years ago when he was five - Credit: Keith Di Palma

He said: "At the moment it's really busy.

"Our weekends are completely full of football.

"And we spend a few hours each weekday night on the club as well."

The winners of the London Sport Awards, sponsored by the City of London Corporation, will be announced during an in-person ceremony held at the Guildhall on December 6, subject to Covid-19 guidance.


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