Thinking Outside the Penalty Box: Poetry inspired by African footballers in Britain (2018)

18 Penalty Box_infoyle05.qxdThis anthology is the culmination of a pilot project called Thinking Outside the Penalty Box (2018), that Nick Makoha and Lizzy Attree started in 2016, supported by funding from the Arts Council, and produced in partnership with Arsenal, Chelsea and the Poetry Society.

The project attempts to showcase African footballers in a positive light.  The main motivation of the work in Thinking Outside the Penalty Box is to tackle racism with positive, inspirational stories and ideas around the incredible achievements of players. The project focuses on examples of positive change in football and uses poetry to evoke and articulate the complex feelings and emotions bound up in the lives of African footballers. You can read some of the poems from this collection here.

Thinking Outside the Penalty Box aims to:

  • tackle racism, sexism and stereotypes of ‘Africa’ in the UK;
  • break down mythologies around footballers;
  • link poetry with African footballers as a way of exploring feelings behind the stereotypes

We worked with Chelsea and Arsenal Football Clubs’ education teams on a series of workshops about the lives of African footballers that play or have played for their clubs.

In total we produced 9 workshops with Chelsea and Arsenal for children at primary schools working with around 100 students. It’s had a great impact on the kids we’ve worked with in London primary schools. Eniola Aluko was one of the main footballers we focussed on in the Chelsea workshops, along with the legendary Didier Drogba and Michael Essien, and her story had a dramatic impact on the children we worked with.  At Arsenal we focussed on Kanu and his heart foundation and Chioma Ubogabu who plays for Arsenal Ladies.

You are knocked down, but you rise,
Running towards the net,
You were ready to fly

And you flew.

from ‘Eniola Aluko’ by Amelia Doherty

We partnered with Chelsea’s Education Team to visit Sir John Lillie Primary School, Sulivan Primary School and Marlborough Primary School, delivering workshops about the lives of African footballers to children aged 9-10 years old. The children composed poems during the workshop and responded to the sessions with feedback that included responses to the question: Did the workshop change your idea of African footballers?

Arsenal’s incredible Education and Literacy team produced an amazing 59-page booklet ‘Arsenal African Allstars’ for their Double Club that went out to all the schools they work with on literacy projects in 3 boroughs. Children from Hanover Primary School and St Andrews Primary School attended the workshops at the Arsenal Hub delivered by poets Theresa Lola and Sugar J, toured the Emirates stadium and played football in rotation. There was great feedback from one of the Year 2 teachers:

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