Francis Coquelin: ‘Community work keeps you down to earth’ – as Arsenal launches homeless scheme
- Credit: Charlie Forgham-Bailey
Arsenal player Francis Coquelin has said the club’s renowned community work in Islington is one of his favourite things about playing for the Gunners.
French midfielder Coquelin knows the drill when it comes to the Arsenal in the Community programme.
He is one of the first team’s longest serving players, having signed for Arsenal nine years ago in 2008, and said: “It gets us out of our bubble.”
Yesterday, he and young defender Ainsley Maitland-Niles were the special guests as the club launched its new football programme with Centrepoint, a youth homeless charity.
Coquelin and Maitland-Niles met young men and women involved in the scheme at the Arsenal Hub, next to Emirates Stadium in Benwell Road, Holloway.
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Both were happy to help Nathan Auguste, who previously used Centrepoint himself, deliver a training session for the group. Coquelin – currently injured but expected back in action soon – also took part in a workshop designed to build self-esteem.
As team-mates such as Per Mertesacker and Jack Wilshere were mobbed by young fans in Queensland Road as they tried to drive home, Coquelin stuck around for pictures with his new pals and presented a signed shirt.
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The 26-year-old told the Gazette afterwards: “I really like coming here. As footballers we live in a bubble. Community work brings you back down to earth. It’s good for me, and it’s good for them [people who use the Arsenal Hub].
“I come from an area where there are similar problems [of homelessness]. It’s maybe not as bad, but I know what it’s like. It’s one of the things I really like about playing for Arsenal, as it does lots of work with its community.
“We obviously have good people around the club. We’re all humans – two arms, two legs – and this is good fun.”
The scheme will be delivered across four eight-week programmes. As well as football at the Hub, it will provide support, guidance and employment pathways for people living in temporary accommodation and looking for work.
It was funded by the players themselves, after they each donated a day’s wages for community causes at the club’s charity matchday against Stoke City in December last year.