• 50 goals and nets, and over 100 adidas footballs donated to Hackney Marshes
  • FIFA’s Deputy Secretary General Zvonimir Boban helps hand over the equipment
  • Former England international Ray Wilkins and Roger Johnson also on hand

Football in its purest form was celebrated in one part of London on Sunday 22 October, a day before a galaxy of stars arrive to celebrate The Best FIFA Football Awards™ in an altogether different locale of the city.

Hackney Marshes was the venue for a historic handover of football equipment - including over 100 adidas footballs - by FIFA’s Deputy Secretary General Zvonimir Boban, as well as former England international Ray Wilkins and London-born footballer Roger Johnson, to help provide a legacy for the awards being held in the city which first formalised the Laws of the Game in the 19th century.

“It’s the first time that I’ve been here so the impact on my footballing soul is huge,” Boban said. “It’s really recreating the child in me, it’s beautiful.

“We asked the director of Hackney Marshes if there was a possibility for FIFA to help them and so FIFA donated the goalposts because the ones here have not been changed in a long, long time. The President was extremely happy that we can help grassroots football in this way.”

Boban turned his eye to the very pitches that saw such English football luminaries as David Beckham, Sol Campbell and Ian Wright hone their skills, with plenty of talent on show. Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, was on hand to receive the equipment from FIFA on behalf of the area.

“Hackney Marshes has been at the heart of the area for over a hundred years and it’s really a key part of grassroots sport in the area,” Glanville said. “You’ve got teams from across East London who play here, women’s teams as well. Football’s diversity is really on show on these pitches.

“FIFA can inspire young people who want to go into professional football but it’s also right that they’re giving back to the community and bringing on new talent and investing in sport for sport’s sake.”

The spiritual home of ‘Sunday League’, a key facet of the footballing fabric of the United Kingdom, Hackney Marshes plays host to more than 80 pitches, open to those of all abilities. Ray Wilkins, who appeared at the 1982 and 1986 FIFA World Cups™ for England, knows the importance of this particular part of his country’s football culture.

Sunday morning memories
“It was 50 years ago that I used to play here,” Wilkins said. “It’s what football is all about. To have Zvonimir here with us today is phenomenal, it’s wonderful what is happening. The equipment here at the moment is antiquated, it’s basically what we need to change. It’s about giving someone a little bit more than they’ve had before.”

Whether the next Beckham or Wright was indeed showcasing their skills on this particular Sunday morning is perhaps not too important. What is paramount is the significance of football continuing to flourish at its grassroots, whatever the location.

“Tradition is always important,” Boban concluded. “It shows us the way we should proceed in our lives. Hackney Marshes demonstrates the incredible passion and love England has for football.”