Breaking Barriers | Singh Sabha Slough
What is community?
There are many official definitions, most routed in the idea of groups of people living in particular areas, those with shared interests and values, religions, identities, social groups... the permutations for what defines a community are endless.
Perhaps it’s easier to look at the meaning of community, rather than its definition.
On a recent visit to Singh Sabha Slough Youth FC researching an article to explore Faith and Football for Inter Faith Week, community was both the term and overriding sense of feeling, that I experienced most prominently.
Singh Sabha Slough Youth FC was formed seven years ago by the current Chair (Joginder Singh Rai) along with co-club founders, Kam Singh Sangha and Manny Singh Gill, both of whom are still heavily involved on the committee and invested in the day-to-day running of the club.
A youth football club based in Slough, they provide regular football for more than one hundred children in the local area, with teams ranging from U7 to U18 and ambitions to expand further by exploring the possibility of introducing girls’ teams to cater for a growing number of girls attending sessions.
Situated in the heart of Slough, the communities the club serves are diverse, so too is the club itself, certainly in regard to inter faith relations, with the club’s membership made up of children from predominantly Sikh, Muslim, Hindu and Christian faiths.
The club’s main ground is owned by Singh Sabha Gurdwara, the local Sikh temple, and having access to these community facilities is what gave the club the starting point it needed to begin providing accessible football in the local area.
A Gurdwara is not just a place for worship and prayer, traditionally it is also the focal point of the Sikh community, a place to gather, learn together and welcome others.
The link with the local Gurdwara has provided a sustainable environment which has enabled the club to focus on football and to progress the club as they see fit, safe in the knowledge that support and guidance is available when and if they need it.
Whilst religion holds an integral role in the structure of the club, Kam and Manny are keen to promote an environment which, whilst built on the values of their faith, is not exclusive to it.
As Sikhs, Kam and Manny explain that a core value of their own faith and culture is based on the service of giving back. They consider themselves Sewadars, a Sikh term that refers to volunteers who offer his/her help to a Gurdwara or to the community, for religious reasons.
As individuals, part of how Kam & Manny give back is by running a football club. One that serves the community of Slough as a whole, regardless of religion, gender, ability, or affordability.
With a mix of backgrounds, cultures and faiths represented at the club, Kam and Manny believe that a sense of trust and acceptance, is a key part of why people bring their children to the club.
In such a close-knit community its often the case that people know each other from other places or events, perhaps their kids go to the same school, they know somebody from work or perhaps through volunteering in the local area, such as at the soup kitchen run by the Gurdwara.
“I think comfort is a big part of it” explains Manny. “Sometimes it’s just about getting started, and as parents adjusting to a new system it’s about where they feel most comfortable dipping a toe in the water.” He adds, “Some children go on to other clubs because it’s where their friends might be, but many stay here. We all want our children to be safe, to progress and be happy in whatever they want. That’s what we’re trying to achieve here.”
That sense of comfort, of familiarity and community is palpable with many in attendance greeting each other, catching up, walking together in a relaxed, friendly environment.
Alongside adjusting to new environments, one of the biggest barriers to participation that the club experiences is socio-economic, with many people not able to afford to bring their children to football regularly.
To support this, the club have low fees and often provide support to those that need it most to ensure football is accessible to all.
“We won't stop kids from playing, we won't say no.” says, Kam. Manny adds, “We’re here for everyone. It doesn’t matter your faith, whether you're rich or poor, we’re here to allow children to play football and to help them be the best that they can be.”
Perhaps fittingly, when asked what their message would be to anyone reading this article, wondering perhaps about taking their child to football they said; “Wherever you feel comfortable going, go. Go and join in and be the best that you can be, don’t be put off by a name or the unknown, don’t let it stop you playing football.”
“Go to your local community club, go where you feel safe, where you can develop and where you’ll have everything you need to succeed and achieve.”
To reflect on the question of community at the start of this piece, perhaps a key part of any community is commonality? A shared passion, belief, or interest?
At Singh Sabha Slough, the shared interest was football. Most likely, if you’re reading this, your shared interest is football too which, together, makes it our shared interest.
We say it often, and we try to live it daily. Football is a game For All. We are part of the same football family and our goals are shared; safe, fun, football for all, without exception or condition.
To find your local football club, please use our Find Football platform. Alternatively, to find out more about Inclusion and Faith in Football please visit our website.