LES FER­DI­NAND is back­ing a new char­ity that is fo­cused on driv­ing knife crime off the streets.

Fer­di­nand, QPR’s di­rec­tor of foot­ball, was at West Brom to give his sup­port to the Cyrille Regis Legacy Trust. Regis, a big pal of Fer­di­nand’s, died, aged 59, 18 months ago and widow Ju­lia Regis launched the char­ity in her hus­band’s name.

Fer­di­nand said: “To see this pro­gramme coming to fruition, for me, is ev­ery­thing foot­ball and so­ci­ety needs right now.

“Es­pe­cially me be­ing in Lon­don, see­ing the knife crime that’s go­ing on, young peo­ple need help.

“Grow­ing up, I had youth cen­tres I could go to, learn to play foot­ball, cricket, ta­ble ten­nis and snooker.

“That’s where your mates were, that’s where you went.

“Now we’re see­ing young boys milling around on the streets look­ing for some­thing to do. Un­for­tu­nately they’re get­ting them­selves into fights.

“These fights are turn­ing out to be fa­tal for fam­i­lies.

“We all need a pur­pose in life. These guys are walk­ing around with no pur­pose. This will give them that.

“Be­ing able to talk to these young kids will change one or two from a life of be­ing on the streets.”

There were 43,516 knife crimes in Eng­land and Wales up to March this year, the high­est ever recorded.

Fer­di­nand, like Regis, be­gan his ca­reer with Lon­don club Hayes. He said: “Cyrille was an in­spi­ra­tion to me.

“Him, the late Lau­rie Cun­ning­ham and Bren­don Bat­son were the first black play­ers I saw on tele­vi­sion and felt I could re­late to and thought, ‘This is some­thing I could do’.

“As a man and his per­son­al­ity, Cyrille always had time for other peo­ple and, when he retired, he still wanted to give back and was men­tor­ing younger play­ers, not just about foot­ball, but about life as well.“

The char­ity deals with three areas – grass­roots foot­ball, break­ing down bar­ri­ers and men­tor­ing.

Called Strike A Change, it is work­ing with Wolves, West Brom, Villa, Wal­sall, Birm­ing­ham City and Coven­try City to help take young peo­ple off the streets and inspire them through foot­ball. John Barnes will also meet and talk to the kids.

Racist abuse has risen in foot­ball by 43 per cent new fig­ures show and Fer­di­nand, one of the few black peo­ple in a foot­ball board­room, added: “One of the pro­grammes is about break­ing down bar­ri­ers and there’s no bet­ter ex­am­ple than Cyrille Regis.”

SUP­PORT: Fer­di­nand helps Regis Trust

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