JOSE IS BACKING FOOTIE FOR ALL
Former pro joins scheme for kids
With World Cup fever at an all-time high a new football venture has kicked off in Hamilton.
Set up by Lesley Robertson, the Juniors Football Academy aims to help children of all families, in particular those of lowincome parents, enjoy regular access to the beautiful game.
Founder Lesley is fuelled by a drive to help families and openly admits she has made a successful career out of being a lone parent after setting up her Families Like Us charitable organisation.
The charity began initially to alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness for all families. Her first Juniors Play area, in Larkhall, became a base within the community where people could meet and interact.
Now through continued support and funding, they can offer a wider service within their Larkhall premises and now also from their new Campbell Street cafe in Hamilton, where the football academy will be based and provide free access for youngsters of any ability and any circumstances.
Lesley explained: “To be honest I actually hate football! My son Kyle loves it though, and this came about through him.
“He is eight and wanted to join a club. I started to see the costs involved and it was unbelievable.
“I’m fortunate we could afford for him to play with a community club, but I just thought there must be so many kids who are not in that position.
“This academy however, will be open to any child, no matter their ability or circumstance. We will help to ensure all kids get a chance, whether their parents are together, single, lone parent, low-income or whatever – it’s simply about providing a secure safe base for children to enjoy football.”
Lesley’s new venture has the full backing of Hamilton Accies legend Jose Quitongo, who grew up in Africa but now lives in Uddingston.
For he runs his own popular academy and knows a thing or two about overcoming the odds to play the sport he loves.
He said: “When I was growing up in Angola, we didn’t have things like Playstations or anything. We didn’t need them.
“My family did okay, but no-one had much. All we had was football, football, football. It was t-shirts on the ground, if we couldn’t get a ball we’d have plastic bags wrapped up in wire.
“It’s funny when you see kids today wearing all the fancy coloured boots – we’d play in our bare feet. We were on the streets morning, noon and night.”
Quitongo might have grown up in Africa, but it’s not such a different story to Scotland a generation ago.
He’s seen how tough it can be now for families who simply don’t have the cash to keep up.
And he added: “You see some kids wearing boots that cost £150, it’s crazy. I say to them, you might have £150 boots, but the boots don’t make you a player.
“It is hard for some families though. How can they give a child £10 or £20 a week or a month for football when they’re struggling to provide food?
“Lesley’s academy is about letting young people enjoy football, be active and involved. That is why schemes like this are so important.
“It’s more important to have as many involved in the game they love from all kinds of different backgrounds.”
To find out more about the Juniors Football Academy, sponsored by Hot Flames World Buffet, contact Juniors Play Cafe Hamilton via the Facebook or Instagram pages “21st Century Girl UK”.
If we couldn’t get a ball we’d have plastic bags wrapped up in wire Jose Quitongo
All setjose Quitongo, Lesley Robertson and her son Kyle
Accies legend Jose Quitongo in his playing days
Supporter Jose is backing the academy