Oct 11, 2021
Football represents so much more than just a sport. How many dreams can be found on football pitches? For Black youths especially, the game is one of the few things that reminds them they can be champions. And yet, often times football has let these wide-eyed kids down. How many kids dream of being a football player but lack the guidance? To keep dreams alive, we need more role models, more support. Thankfully, platforms like BALLER TALK exist.
Founded by professional football players James Alabi and Femi Ilesanmi who host alongside fellow pro-player Medy Elito, BALLER TALK is a space for real conversations and insights all about the sport. A Black-owned platform that is run by athletes that are being transparent about their football journey, this isn’t something we’ve ever seen before, but it’s definitely needed. We love the work they do on YouTube and were proud to host their first live show at the Daily Paper London Flagship store on October 10th.
Alongside BALLER TALK’s James, Femi, and Medy, we had the pleasure of inviting Chelsea FC legend Drew Spence, Brighton and Hove Albion FC Danielle Carter, and Everton FC and Nigeria international Alex Iwobi. Engaging professionals in open conversations about their family, support, and struggles in the sport with an audience of semi-pro and amateur players looking to level up is exactly what BALLER TALK is all about. Because football is about more than practice and putting in the hours on the pitch, it’s about community.
Coming off racism in football being a hot topic – with last year’s Black Lives Matter movement inspiring protest on the field and the painful reality of discrimination at the Euros this year – the panel touched on what it will truly take to tackle football’s racism problem. Speaking on Black British cultures’ impact on the sport, Iwobi gave his insights into the power of choosing to play for your heritage country as a Black player. The London-raised player, represented England up to under-18 level, before deciding to play nationally for his native country, Nigeria. Which raises the question: What would happen if every Black player in England played for their heritage country? And while we’re on the topic of diversity in the sport, we have to talk about women in football. Spence and Carter spoke about their journey through a male-dominated sport and what legacy means to them. If we want a better future for football, it has to be a more inclusive space for women also, and making the space to hear their stories is just a tiny step in the right direction.
Because despite our differences, football should be a safe space where we unite for the love of the sport. And looking across the room at all the young people that came through eager to learn, and seeing the impact of the BALLER TALK platform, reminds us just how important this educative community approach is in working towards a better future.
Thank you BALLER TALK for being an indispensable part of this. And we look forward to opening our doors to more events of this kind.