A new five-a-side football tournament has been set up to honour legendary youth coach Derrick Accra.
The competition for under 12s and under 14s is being organised by Derrick’s daughter Nandi and will also feature a community fun day, with food on sale, face painting, bouncy castle and other activities for families.
Nandi hopes the event will help “bring back community spirit” and tackle gang violence by connecting players from different postcodes like her father’s teams did.
Mr Accra, who died in 2008, started a youth club in Brixton in 1982 for children getting into trouble.
He opened his flat to youngsters to use as a base, and the attached team Accra Football Club became one of the most successful sides in south London.
Player Impact spoke to Nandi exclusively about the new tournament and the legacy of her father. The full interview can be read below.
Why did you set up the Derrick Accra Memorial 5 a side Tournament?
Nandi Accra – I’m setting it up in memoriam of him to try and bring back community spirit. Derrick Accra was all about his local community and everything he did was aimed at making it a better and safer place.
He had such a positive impact on so many young people’s lives. If you had a talent, he would nurture it and push you to do your best.
I believe community spirit is what is lacking now and that’s why there’s so much trouble with the youths these days.
Youth clubs have been shut down, the kids don’t know each other and are defending postcodes that don’t belong to them – Derrick had them defending their football titles with boys that covered several postcode areas. They worked and lived as a team.
Gangs didn’t bother them on the street because they played for Accra Football Club, often some of these gang members were in the teams.
Derrick always brought it back to the word team – they are your extended family, you have each other’s backs in everything on and off the pitch.
I also wanted the fun day to be aimed at low-income families. They’ll be able to come and enjoy free activities on the day and have fun at no cost to them. This is what Derrick would have done.
Can you tell me more about Derrick and why he founded Accra FC?
Nandi Accra – Derrick was born in Guyana on August 6 1949, on a sugar plantation called Uitvlugt. He later moved to England to join his mum.
When Derrick was 16, his mother moved back to Guyana and Derrick chose to stay in the UK.
He changed his surname to Accra when he discovered that his great grandfather had given them the name so they would know where they originated from pre slave trade.
Whilst working, he noticed that the kids were up to all types of mischief and told them to behave and go to their youth club. Their response was they didn’t have one.
This prompted Derrick to open his home in Moorlands Estate, Brixton, to the kids as a club when they told him they didn’t have one.
He also started teaching them how to play football in the caged pitch of Hillmead Primary School and Loughborough Park.
He didn’t just train the boys, he also included girls which was very rare at the time.
What is Derrick’s history in football and why did he want to launch a team in Brixton?
Nandi Accra – Derrick had always had a love and passion for football. He would get a game going any time he could, be it his neighbours’ kids or just kids on the block doing nothing.
He studied and taught the Dutch style of football and I believe this contributed to making the club one of the most successful football clubs in South London because not many clubs played that style at the time.
Initially, he launched the club to try and reduce crime on the estate but as it became evident that these kids actually had raw football talent, he decided to nurture it and show them how to use their skills properly.
As kids from neighbouring estates started to hear about the club and how successful it was becoming, they started attending and the club had players from many parts of south London.
They were a predominantly black team which often encountered racism and Derrick would refuse to rise to it. If they were having trouble with a particular team because of race, Accra would make a point of beating them so badly that they went home with their tail between their legs.
What are your memories of Accra Football Club?
Nandi Accra – My favourite memories of Accra are ones where we did group activities. For example, the whole club went to Hindleap Warren for a week and the fun we had was amazing, not just the activities but also the competitiveness amongst ourselves because nobody was prepared to dumb themselves down. We always wanted to be the best.
And that’s what Derrick instilled in us – practice until you become the master of your chosen craft, work hard and the results will pay off.
I had one specific memory when he had what I called his “Super Team” because they literally won every league and competition they entered. We were playing in a final and we got a corner.
I said to him I love it when we get corners, and he asked me why? I responded because we always score from corners and true to form, the ball got thrown in and it got headed into the goal. I even remember who scored it.
Overall, I believe everyone had happy memories of Accra. Whether you came for a short time or was a member for years, there are so many fond memories that people can look back on.
And that’s why now, in the current climate of youth violence, I think it is important to bring back that community spirit because it’s gone.
My Dad, amongst other youth workers, were doing what they could to stop the youngsters from going down the wrong path and did a good job. Colin Marriot, who ran the Dexter Adventure Playground on Railton Road, worked very closely with my Dad and they also played cricket together.
You have to admire their tenacity both for not only trying but also succeeding in helping the youths become upstanding members of their community, instead of becoming a tragic statistic.
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