This year, Leicester Nirvana Football Club celebrates 40 years in the community – continuing its mission to provide opportunities and empower young people through the medium of football.
Based in Hamilton, the charity was developed in the 1980s, in order to provide a platform for inner city youths to progress into the professional game.
It was born out of one of the most deprived areas of the city at the time (Spinney Hills Ward – Highfields) and
has gone on to become the most consistently highest playing football club within the city boundary. It is also the most diverse club in the city and one of the most diverse in the country, with a strong Black and Asian holding.
“I don’t think you’ll find a more culturally diverse club than ours across the country,” said Chairman Zak Hajat.
“The majority of our make-up is from the BAME community, so that’s who we provide for, but we are an inclusive club. We’re very diverse and open to all.
“Nirvana’s about having that fighting spirit for all – that ‘all for one and one for all’ attitude that’s right at the heart of our ethos.”
Today, Leicester Nirvana is home to hundreds of children from a range of backgrounds, who all benefit from the club’s spirit, strong values and admirable ethos.
Its primary service is to provide young people and adults from the age of 5, with a platform to play and enjoy football.
However, it is also one of a few clubs that run a Saturday development academy for young people of mixed ability, who are able to come along to get exercise and progress not only their football, but also their social skills.
It is this aspect of the club which has brought about some of its greatest successes, Mr Hajat told Pukaar.
“When you’re looking at success in sport, people tend to think about how many trophies you’ve won and things like that, but for me it’s the little wins that make such a difference,” he said.
“For example, we had a child with ADHD and Autism who came to the Saturday sessions, and his Mum really noticed the difference – the positive impact in his behaviour, which is something that hadn’t been achieved through school or anything like that. For her, that was amazing and to know we made such a difference to their lives like that was really amazing for us too”.
“These are the kind of successes we don’t really shout about, but for me they’re the most important.”
Leicester Nirvana FC is run by dozens of volunteers, who have played an invaluable part in its success and longevity over the years. In fact, without them there wouldn’t be a club at all, says Zak, who played for Leicester Nirvana as a youngster.
“Over the 40 years, the amount of volunteers that have come through and consistently delivered has been outstanding,” he added.
“Without volunteers we can’t function, so we’re always trying to recruit. Leicester Nirvana is a legacy that needs to continue – for the next 40 years and beyond…”
To find out more, or to get involved with the club, visit: www.leicesternirvana.com