PRIDE OF BIRMINGHAM AWARDS 2023: COACH WHO USES FOOTBALL TO GET YOUNG PEOPLE OFF THE STREETS HONOURED

A football coach who set up her own team to help get young people off the streets and offer support to her community has been recognised with a TSB Community Hero Award at the Pride of Birmingham Awards 2023.

When Asha Rage, aged 45, enrolled on a coaching course at Aston Villa, she wasn’t there to learn about tactics and the merits of a flat back four. She had never played football, but her plan was to use the game to help get young people off the streets and give them new opportunities.

Since setting up Dream Chasers FC in Small Heath, Birmingham, in 2016 Asha’s plan has grown into more than she could have ever hoped for. Not only does she now have 160 players training weekly, but the football club also offers support for adults in the form of ‘Coffee with a Coppa’ sessions, helping the community form bonds with local police officers discuss any potential issues in a friendly setting.

There are also Street Watch walks, litter picks, English lessons for migrant parents, dance lessons for women, and healing paint workshops to help with mental health and wellbeing.

More recently, Asha and her community of players have been handing out food to those struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and have produced hundreds of Ramadan pack for Muslims who can’t access prayer mats, spiritual books or food to break their fast.

To honour her efforts and community spirit, Asha will receive the ‘TSB Community Hero Award’ at tonight’s BirminghamLive Pride of Birmingham Awards with TSB 2023.

The event returns for another year and will welcome star-studded guests including actor Nitin Ganatra and presenters Adil Ray and Sameena Ali-Khan, to name a few.

The event is being presented by Kym Marsh, who comments: “This is such an amazing group of winners. Their courage, selfless dedication, inspiration and kindness are exactly what the world needs right now. Hearing their incredible stories can’t fail to inspire you, and restore your faith in humanity. I can’t wait to meet them.”

Other winners tonight include:

  • Child of Courage: Finley Hassall, aged 11 from Kingswinfoord – saved a boy’s life using the RNLI’s ‘Float To Live’ technique.
  • Stephen Sutton Inspiration Award: Eva Abley, aged 14 from Cannock – a teenager with cerebral palsy who made it to the finals of Britain’s Got Talent with her comedy routine
  • Emergency Services Award: Deena Evans and Michael Hipgrave, aged 41 and 52 from Wolverhampton – two paramedics who were attacked by a knifeman when attending a wellness check with the police.
  • Outstanding Contribution: Chris Hoare, aged 75 from Edgbaston – formed the Birmingham Southwest Community Group in the early noughties to reform his crime-ridden estate.
  • Lifetime Achievement: Reverend Canon Eve Pitts from Birchfield, Birmingham – made The Church of England’s first black female vicar in 1994, and has since spent decades supporting parishioners, challenging racism, and calling out institutional prejudice in her own faith.
  • TSB Community Hero: Asha Rage, aged 45 from Small Heath – set up Dream Chasers FC in Small Heath to help get young people off the streets, which now has 160 players training weekly.
  • Triumph Over Adversity: The Chatting Family, from Lichfield – started the charity Carter The Brave and have raised over £330,000 for Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
  • Special Recognition Award: Dawn Astle, 55 from Swadlincote –Daughter of the former West Brom and England striker Jeff Astle, who died when he was 59 from early onset dementia. She launched the Jeff Astle Foundation in 2015 to raise awareness of brain injury in sport.
  • Special Recognition Award: Delores and Hector Pinkney, 71 and 70 from Handsworth – established the UK’s first independent Black organisation, The African Caribbean Self-Help Organisation, and the Dojo Project, which helps elderly people from ethnic minority backgrounds.
  • Spirit of Birmingham: The Commonwealth Games Volunteers – the army of 14,000 volunteers, without whom the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games couldn’t have happened.

On their partnership with the awards, Jodie O’Leary, Customer Services Director at TSB, said: “At TSB, we pride ourselves on being at the heart of the communities we serve, and the Pride of Birmingham awards are all about recognising the everyday heroes in those communities. As a proud Brummie myself, it is a huge honour to be part of the judging panel and is truly a humbling and heart-warming experience to hear the amazing stories behind every one of the nominees.”

The Birmingham Live Pride of Birmingham Awards with TSB is available to watch from 9 March, via the official Pride of Britain social media channels: @prideofbritain. To find out more, visit: www.prideofbritain.com/birmingham.

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