Roy­als would sparkle with Miss Markle

Sunday Mirror - - SAIRAKHAN -

I’m hooked by the ro­mance be­tween Prince Harry and his girl­friend Meghan Markle, the Amer­i­can ac­tress.

They ap­pear so happy and nat­u­ral to­gether – they just make me smile. We must be care­ful not to get ahead of our­selves, but it HAS moved up a notch lately.

First, Harry flew Meghan’s mother Do­ria Ragland from LA to Toronto for the fi­nale of his In­vic­tus Games for in­jured ser­vice­men and women.

Then there was that pub­lic kiss at the clos­ing con­cert.

Is an en­gage­ment im­mi­nent? I re­ally hope so.

Meghan seems a lovely girl. Harry re­ally de­serves to find hap­pi­ness.

And it will be a huge step for­ward for Bri­tain to have its first mixed-race royal.

My favourite sub­ject at school was al­ways sport. So much so that I wanted to be a PE teacher – and won a place to study it at the Univer­sity of Brighton.

Un­for­tu­nately for me, my par­ents didn’t sup­port my am­bi­tion to spend the rest of my life in Ly­cra.

In­stead, I was packed off to fol­low a more aca­demic route into the busi­ness world.

But I don’t blame them. For work­ing class im­mi­grants like my par­ents, PE was a lux­ury – and one which they didn’t think their daugh­ter could af­ford.

Their sights were set on their chil­dren build­ing ca­reers to al­low us to climb out of poverty.

The sad fact was that kids from poor fam­i­lies like mine were hand­i­capped from the start, miss­ing out on op­por­tu­ni­ties to do well at sport.

Gymnastics was my real tal­ent. There were two of us at my school who ex­celled in it.

We started out at the same level, but the other girl at­tended all the af­ter-school clubs, and her par­ents paid for ex­tra coach­ing, be­cause they could af­ford to.

Soon, she was tak­ing part in com­pe­ti­tions around the coun­try while I was still do­ing hand­stands in the school hall.

I could have done what she did. But my par­ents not only didn’t have the money, they were never told about the af­ter-school clubs.

None of my teach­ers ever took the time to en­cour­age them to recog­nise my skill in gymnastics or to ex­plain to them what I might achieve with a ca­reer in sport.

We’re now 30 years on and very lit­tle has changed. Kids who are part of the “have not” group are still miss­ing out, thanks to Tory cuts to the School Sport Part­ner­ships pro­gramme.

When Michael Gove was Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary he pulled the plug on its fund­ing – and 450 groups de­liv­er­ing a whole host of spe­cial­ist sport pro­grammes and fa­cil­i­ties lost out.

Gove’s rea­son was that he felt it was not “the best way to help schools achieve their po­ten­tial in im­prov­ing com­pet­i­tive sport”.

How wrong could he be? The ef­fects of his all too short-sighted de­ci­sion are still be­ing felt years down the line.

Take the ex­am­ple of Tower Ham­lets, one of the most de­prived in­ner city ar­eas in Lon­don.

More than 25,000 chil­dren in the bor­ough are de­fined as com­ing from poor back­grounds in an area where there are very few green spa­ces for them to play in and vir­tu­ally no sports clubs. As I write, the Tower Ham­lets Youth Sports Foun­da­tion – which works to turn these young lives around – is fight­ing hard to keep its own fund­ing.

Since it was set up in 2004, the foun­da­tion has achieved some out­stand­ing re­sults.

It has pro­duced county crick­eters, de­spite hav­ing no lo­cal pitch, has set up a lo­cal res­i­dents’ hockey team and in­tro­duced the first judo club to the area.

Its sport lead­er­ship pro­gramme has trained hun­dreds of young­sters to as­sist as PE teach­ers in lo­cal schools and to lead af­ter­school clubs.

You have to ask, what­ever hap­pened to the legacy of the 2012 Lon­don Olympics and all the big prom­ises politi­cians made about build­ing a na­tion of Olympians?

How can they talk about cre­at­ing a legacy and then cut the es­sen­tial fund­ing needed to de­velop our sport stars of the fu­ture?

It’s easy to say get on and do it your­self – but how can a child do that if there is no hope, op­por­tu­nity or men­tor­ing to show them what “get­ting on” ac­tu­ally looks and feels like?

We can­not al­ways al­low a lack of money to shat­ter the dreams of the young.

Be­cause the in­vest­ment we make now will be paid back many times over. And we’ll see it in health­ier, hap­pier, bet­ter­be­haved kids with the self-es­teem and self-dis­ci­pline to make Bri­tain bet­ter for us all.

HE’S BACK Lord Su­gar

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