The Last Stand: breaking down barriers in London
Goal Click teamed up with adidas to tell stories of real Londoners connected to The Last Stand, a street football tournament created to unite communities and break down social, cultural and religious barriers through sport. The Founder of The Last Stand is Gundeep Anand, a director and photographer from west London. For Goal Click, Gundeep took a series of photos of players in their local areas, and told us about the biggest issues facing London youth in 2018 - and how The Last Stand and football can address these challenges.
Why did you set up the Last Stand?
I have spent a lot of time in Shepherd’s Bush and Ladbroke Grove. I feel the kids there don’t believe they can achieve much; they don’t feel they can do much with their lives. So instead of just talking I wanted to create something to form in their minds and become a reality. It did not have to be a football tournament, it could have been an app, a film, music, anything - something that they can make a reality. I thought, instead of talking, why don’t I show it? That was the premise and ethos behind The Last Stand.
As the tournament grew, with teams from different parts of London, different cultures, different religions, different ethnicities and different backgrounds, I thought that if it wasn’t for the sport and tournament, would these people ever come together? No. That’s the power of sport to unite people and break these barriers. In this day and age, I feel like there are more things dividing us than uniting us. This is just my way of tackling the problem.
It is better people unite, that people understand each other and connect more on a local level. There is no better thing than football. Everything happened naturally. We wanted to do this to bring people together. Once we had a few teams, other teams wanted to play because they saw their friends doing it. Before you know it, you start to reach out to people irrespective of the problems the area is going through.
All these kids want is a platform to express themselves. Right now the platforms are being given to people who are untouchable superstars. It’s important to give people a platform. These kids are the superstars of tomorrow.
Why is football so important to you personally?
Football saved my life when I was younger, it allowed me to express myself, it gave me the support I needed when I was lost in my life, it gave me an outlet and I’m so grateful to football. If it wasn’t for football I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now.
I used to be a coach. It allowed me to meet new people, make new friends. It gave me the stability I needed and the platform for me to develop myself while I was still trying to find my feet. Football is the best stress reliever, you can express yourself – and allows you to connect with people.
What are the biggest problems facing young Londoners?
The biggest problem right now is a lack of role models, a lack of leaders within the community, a lack of people to look up to. The only thing youth are looking up to is social media, which is a façade - it’s not real. Everyone is putting up an image that is not real, and kids are trying really hard to live up to an image that doesn’t even exist. Then they get unhappy.
Look at the number of kids committing suicides, let alone adults. The rise of anxiety, the rise of depression, it’s crazy. It had never been heard of. We can choose to ignore it and hope it fixes itself, but it won’t fix itself. We need to take a stand.
How do we best tackle the problems faced by young people in London?
We need to empower people and open the lid on imagination, because the more kids feel like they can achieve, the more likely they are to pursue it and be more productive. Right now the kids are not productive - they are bored. They have nothing to do. No one is showing them they can do something with their lives. They are just surrounded by the idea to “be a footballer”. If you don’t, it’s the other side of the road.
In life you can do whatever you want. But you need people actually creating things to show kids that they are capable and things are achievable. If you suggest something they usually say, “that’s not possible”, their mindset is just shut and limited. I think the real problem is not with the people and the area; the problem is with mindsets. That’s what I think the government needs to address. But because it is something you can’t see or put a number or metric on, a lot of people try to avoid it because they don’t understand it.
How is The Last Stand helping the next generation?
I have seen our boys become role models. Some have become photographers and directors, they’ve started their own companies, and they are building their own brands. They have started to become entrepreneurs in their own right. The magic is that as Last Stand grows, the more the impact grows and that’s a beautiful thing.
It is important to show first and not just talk. The more you show, the more people will cling on to that. This is real. Conversations don’t change the world. But conversations are the beginning of change. I never disregard conversations, they are a good starting point, but they are not alone enough.
People who have been part of Last Stand have gone on to be a producer for Chelsea Football club or editor for adidas. We’re creating opportunities not just on the screen, but off the screen as well. Some of the boys are building their own channels, they’ve worked with Domino’s, started to work with Jesse Lingard as a presenter. One we’re sending out to Brazil to interview Neymar. There’s a lot happening. Even myself I’ve had opportunities to work with Manchester City and adidas. Projects that I could only dream of.
What does the future look like for The Last Stand?
We use the power of sports to unite people and break down social barriers. The next step is a UK national tour, to take this message and amplify it. Let’s hope we can touch more hearts and more people and empower more people to follow their dream. Ultimately the goal for me is to get these kids to a place where they don’t need me. We want to make them independent people.
Can you tell us about the Last Stand participants featured here?
With Esteban Salcedo, the whole tournament has empowered him to believe that there is more to life than just work and going to sleep. It has given him a lot of confidence. He wants to start his own channels; he wants to start telling stories around his culture and his people. These are the moments when life changes. “From now on I’m going to do something about it, I believe in something and I want to change perceptions”. He loves football, he is training all the time, and he is so dedicated. He wants to help people.
I met Olu Maintain through one of the teams, Hidden Talent, he came down and I was blown away by his personality. He used to be a professional footballer and he says Last Stand has made him love football again. So that really means a lot. When someone says street football has made him love football again, that’s a big thing.
What we did together has opened up his imagination and made him realise there is more to life than his area. Sometimes it’s easy to get down and think nothing is happening in my life, you start to question your ability, start doubting yourself and lose confidence. But now he’s writing scripts for his first ad he directed, he’s made his first music video, he’s started his own clothing label. It’s slow but with time everyone can change. We didn’t tell him what to do, he just saw what we were doing and realised it actually works. It’s important to show and lead by example.
For Mo and Didds from Tekk Squad, their creativity can’t be constrained by the four walls of a west London cage. Football was the gateway to realising their potential. Their tekkers on and off the pitch has taken them to places they could only dream of.
What message do you have for young people who are unsure what to do with their life?
There are a lot of times when people want to start something and people say, “it’s all been done, you can’t do it”. Yes it’s been done. But I would ask, “has it been done by you?”
That is the most important thing. A lot of people just stop. But they forget how unique we are as humans, individually. How many of you are there in the world? Whatever you are going to put your stamp on, it’s going to be different. People are scared. They think until a big person or a big corporation says, “you are ready”, they have wasted their life. If people stopped looking at other people and just looked at themselves, and said, “this is what I need to work on”, I think life would be different.