Janai Asher Riley

Before I joined the project I was very young minded, ignorant and angry but now I’m completely the opposite, with normality and routine, full of Goal Getter prospects!

Born and raised in South East London, I’ve seen, witnessed, been involved with and played a major part of many things that a film director could turn into a movie and get nominated for an Oscar. From a very young age all I had in my life were my two brothers and the sport I loved the most Football.

Being the youngest sibling my brothers were more protective over me than you could ever imagine, especially after the very unfortunate death of our mother when I was only a year old, and a month before my eldest brother Javen’s sixth birthday.

When the untimely death took place my dad had to step up to the plate and

become immensely strong for all of us, now the sole bread winner of the family and more importantly both our mum and dad, which for a guy with his mentality wasn’t going to last long, indeed it didn’t.

All of the qualities that a father is meant to have and ultimately show to his children, were rarely delivered, just the total opposite as he was a brutal, violent, angry, stressed individual, displaying most of his personal hurt and pain in a negative form towards his two youngest sons as we’re identical constant reminders of his late wife, their relationship had been up and down for a number of years.

As the years went by, Javen

Became the man of the house and not just my older brother, but more like a dad. This became more evident as my father was around less and less, going on trips to Jamaica for up to three months at a time, leaving his eldest son of twelve years old to look after his two younger brothers.

My brother would make sure that I ate breakfast and dinner everyday, even if it meant he didn’t. But I’d never finish my food, so I knew there would be some left over for him.

For me, playing football was the only thing that kept me level headed and happy because not knowing when or if your father is coming back home and where your next meal is coming from is difficult to accept as children.

We never had income and our gas and electricity were on card/key so when the days came when we had no gas or electricity, as a family of three young minors, we’d have to find a way making money to live and survive. Desperate times, called for desperate measures for us….. so we robbed, stole, lied and cheated just to get by. We’re not proud of these things, however being in that lane, we couldn’t see any other alternatives.

At school I always tried to be an obedient pupil and not show any feelings or emotion towards anyone including teachers, as I didn’t want any questions being asked about my behavioural pattern.

The days I was at home were filled with physical, mental and verbal abuse from my father for anything I did, if I got home late, if I mixed the clothes when putting them in the washing machine or if I didn’t wash the dishes to his satisfaction.

Andy told me about the Goal Getter, Senior Development Project, in conjunction with the Guy Mascolo Charity, through Bedhead FC which is aimed at participants aged sixteen and above.

I’ve been attending and been a part of the Sunday Session Family for more than a year now and I feel that due to the objectives of the project and Andy being Andy. I mean that in the nicest possible way, in terms of his love and enthusiasm for coaching, the nature of his sessions and the continual advice he gives, I’ve been able to develop drastically in many aspects. I’ve improved my game to a level I never thought I’d reach and through Andy, he has truly helped reignite my dream in making it as a professional footballer, playing in the premiership and one day representing my mum’s place of birth Jamaica!

There’s still a vast amount of work to do, Andy tells me this all of the time, but what motivates me even more so is that all of the boys support and encourage each other constantly, have the right mentality and that is why we’re a very tight knitted group of young men who are so, so thankful that this project has brought us all together, as we’ve built a bond and friendships that I hope lasts forever.

Without the positive influences of Andy and the rest of my Sunday Session Family, I can put my hands up and say I wouldn’t be in a stable place of my life, I’d probably be incarcerated like the majority of my friends and acquaintances. Fortunately that’s not the case, before I joined the project I was very young minded, ignorant and angry but now I’m completely the opposite, with normality and routine, full of Goal Getter prospects!