Football to extremism: what’s your goal?

It’s known as ‘The Beautiful Game’ and it seems the power of football can indeed strike well beyond the pitch. When we heard about a no-nonsense coach called Azmani Ridoin who coaches an under-12s team in the Brussels area of Molenbeek we had to tell you about him.

Ridoin is making a name for himself as a guy who not only loves football but also tackles the boredom lots of young people suffer in his area. And in doing so, he’s kicking extremism where it hurts – right in the (foot)balls.

Because Ridoin is fed up with Molenbeek being called stuff like: “The Islamic state of Molenbeek”; “Europe’s jihadi capital” and “Europe’s jihadi heaven.” It got this name because it’s where a high number of men who were radicalised into becoming killers in the name of twisted Islamist extremism have links to.

When police were investigating the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015, they found that the ringleader of the group Abdelhamid Abaaoud, and three of the other suspected attackers grew up in Molenbeek.

Some of the bombers who took part in the attacks on Brussels airport and a metro station in March, killing 32 people, were found to have links to the area. Ayoub el-Khazzani, a Moroccan national suspected of opening fire on a train between Brussels and Paris last August, was also from Molenbeek, while Mehdi Nemmouche, who is accused of killing four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels in 2014, once lived in the area.

Some people think that boredom and disillusionment is making young Muslim men in the area be more vulnerable to Daesh’s violent and murderous ideas. Ridoin thinks that some young Belgian Muslims are being left on the bench. That they feel they aren’t given the best chance in life and are annoyed with the establishment.

So, he started up a football team. And they’re pretty damn good. The team is called Académie Jeunesse Molenbeek and has an incredible 500 members. Parents, kids, imams and the wider Muslim community are getting in on the action. It’s changing Molenbeek into a proud place with footie a main topic of conversation in local cafés and bars.

At Kikit, we know that it can be tough out there, and this applies to the UK as much as it does in Belgium. That’s why we have loads of programmes to make life more fun and rewarding. Like it should be. Like it deserves to be for you.

We can work with you to create opportunities in employment, education, training and volunteering. We can support your health and wellbeing. We can help you find the right path that will ensure you have a brighter future. And most of all, we understand. We get it. You’re not alone.

We don’t want to see the potential stars in our community get into gangs and drugs and other rubbish. We want you to get the most out of life and play it in your best position. You’re already part of our team, our community. Get in touch and let’s play ball. We can help you reach your goals.

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