BY JAMES TWOMEY
An ex-Crystal Palace footballer who was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and banned from the game for life is launching a foundation to inspire young people through sport.
Moses Swaibu, who also played for Lincoln City, set up 5wai for youth and children with the aim “to challenge the status quo and inspire greater aspiration in teenagers from deprived areas”.
Swaibu, from Bermondsey, set up the project after a realisation at the lowest point in his life – when he was in prison.
Speaking for the first time about his spell in jail, he said: “If I had never been to prison I wouldn’t have had the idea. I understand and owned up to my mistakes.
“What prison made me realise is when you actually speak to people you get an understanding of what makes them tick.
“The common denominator of when I was there was that people had a lack of education – they were asking me to read their letters.
“But it’s more than that – people need education about racism and violence and it’s a lack of education or support that may have made them commit their crimes.
“To move forward, you have to understand your mistakes. Due to my mistakes, I can help the youth and guide them to make the right decisions.”
Swaibu plans to use his connections in the football industry and his knowledge of growing up in South London to steer young people away from violence and crime in the communities he knows – and show them their potential.
He has already given talks at Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace academies.
Swaibu said: “The foundation is being built to re-establish support for the community using a network of inspirational people to show young people they can achieve.
“My background is in football, and I want to make young people aware of what they need to do so that they don’t make mistakes like I once did.”
Swaibu grew up in Bermondsey and Croydon playing football around Burgess Park and says he was lucky to make it out of the crime that was present on the streets he grew up in.
The 29-year-old, who is an ambassador to Give Racism the Red Card, said: “Growing up where I did there was loads of violence and knife crime.
“But South London is producing some of the best footballing talent in the world – look at Jaydon Sancho, Jordan Ibe, Victor Moses.
These are all South London players from some dangerous areas.
“I’ve experienced deaths from the streets – the last thing you want is the phone to ring saying someone you know has died.
“Knife and gun crime is out of control in London at the moment and the right education from the right people could potentially change this narrative with the right schemes.
“Schools, the community, parents and teachers – it’s our responsibility as caregivers to provide time, love, support, knowledge and guidance to help youth achieve their ambitions in life.
“5wai will be the future and will bridge the gap. It will provide the right interaction between deprived areas dealing with crime within London and its community.
Within a few years we will build facilities where we will boost every young person’s right to live. We want them to become successful so they can be the best people they can.”
Swaibu, a former pupil of Archbishop Lanfranc School, Croydon was spotted late, aged 16, by Palace, offered a two-year contract aged 17 in 2007 and awarded the Scholar of the Year and vice-presidents Young Player of the Year the same year – but released by Neil Warnock 12 months later.
He then played for Lincoln City – where he was eyed by Birmingham and Aston Villa – plus Bromley for two spells, Sutton United and Whitehawk.