CIPHR sponsors youth football coaches at Singh Sabha Slough sports club
The beautiful game is an important conversation motivator in the CIPHR office. But account manager Harpreet ‘Harps’ Dhesi does more than just talk the sport: every Saturday morning, whatever the weather, he coaches young footballers at the Singh Sabha Slough sports club.
Many of these children are just having fun channelling their energy into the sport – but others are trying hard to make the grade to represent Singh Sabha Slough Junior FC. “There’s about 300 kids, aged between 5 and 15, which means things can get a little hectic,” explains Harps. “Luckily, our CIPHR-sponsored blue tracksuits really help us to stand out in the middle of the action.”
Harps, who has been working at CIPHR for more than seven years, adds: “My colleagues at CIPHR have always shown an interest in how the academy is developing. CIPHR’s support of me and the other coaches, with our own sponsored kit, really does mean a lot. We have invested our own money into gaining FA coaching qualifications and accreditations. Not only that, we pay for the running costs of the club and maintenance of the ground. Having money spent on me and the other coaches really means a lot.”
Harps founded the Singh Sabha Slough youth academy in 2014 when, he says, “my knees and ankles wouldn’t let me last a full game as a midfielder anymore. I began the Falcon Sports Football Academy with my lifelong friends, Jag Rai and Kam Sangha – we have been playing football together since we were youngsters.
“We wanted to do something for the kids in our community. There’s not much green to play on in West London, and not many activities set up where they can mix with other kids in the neighbourhood.”
It was his father, Sam, and uncle Gurny, who founded Singh Sabha Slough FC in 1976: “I think it was just an excuse for them to kick a ball about, meet other people in the community, and have a drink,” he jokes.
Fast-forward to today, and not only do the youth teams compete in a variety of games, tournaments and competitions, but the Singh Sabha Slough FC senior team is the number one Asian football team in Europe. Naturally, this accolade is a huge inspiration for the local children who flock to the Singh Sabha Sports Centre in Stoke Poges every Saturday from 10-11:30 am.
Being in an open, green space just outside the urban sprawl of West London means the club is a great destination not just for the Sikh community that established it, but for all residents in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire looking to get fit. The sports centre was recognised with a British Ethnic Diversity in Sports award earlier this year, and Harps says that his Youth Academy reflects this inclusivity.
The club’s football pitch is also known for its strategic position: one half is in Buckinghamshire, and the other is in Berkshire. This bit of ‘accidental’ geography allows the youth teams to compete in both county leagues. Currently they are top of both boards, in all youth groups.
“I can’t imagine not coaching,” says Harps. “I volunteer my time for the local community because I want to. A lot of these children come from deprived backgrounds and football is an escape for them. It’s a chance for them to shine.”