Tuff FC, which stands for The Unity of Faiths Foundation, was set up to combat extremism and internet radicalisation and has already prevented 10 teenagers from travelling to Syria.

 

The youth football club takes teens from all backgrounds, helps them explore their identities and give them the tools to fight back against online propaganda.

Founder Dr Shamender Talwar explains: “The extremists deliberately target youngsters and ask them, ‘are you Muslim or are you British?’ and by sowing doubt in their minds, they can split their loyalties. At Tuff, we make it clear in everything we do that their identity is British.

“Football breaks down barriers, brings people together and is a fantastic way to learn about British history and culture.”

Youngsters from all religions and cultural backgrounds turn up for training each week and this interaction has even helped quell gang-related problems in the area.

Tuff started in Southall, West London, but the scheme is now being rolled out in East London and Bradford, with the support of high profile people such as Sol Campbell.

The weekly sessions, run by FA-trained coaches, teach respect, discipline and, most importantly, teamwork.

And playing at top-class facilities gives the kids the confidence to build their own  identities.

Dr Talwar says: “In turn, they start to believe in us and focus on the positive opportunities in life – we offer plenty.”

Tuff promotes tolerance on the pitch and unity in the wider society.

The project has impressed President Barack Obama who has invited the team to meet him at the White House.

 

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