Homeless Cambridgeshire man swaps gang crime for football stardom to earn YOPEY nomination

WHEN Musa Kamara fled gang culture and arrived in Cambridge, he had nowhere to turn and no place to go.

The homeless 21-year-old had turned away from a possible life of crime and knew he must turn his fortunes around.

Using his sporting skills Musa went from starring in a team of homeless footballers in Cambridge to leading a special England team in an international tournament in Brazil.

Next week he will compete for a prize after making it into the finals of Redstone Cambridgeshire Young People of the Year (YOPEY) awards.

The avid West Ham United fan will be vying for glory alongside a host of Fenland entries. Artistic pair Brandon Mattless, from Wisbech, and Liam Thompson, from March, will join teenage dancers Courtney Few and Chloe Hebden and Cambridgeshire’s youngest county councillor Samanatha Hoy at the awards.

Musa, who grew up in London, said: “I was kicked out by my parents because of what my friends were getting me involved in: fighting against other gangs, theft, drugs and other criminal activities.

“When some of the friends got sent to prison for attempted murder and robbery, I decided I wanted better for myself.”

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In Cambridge, fate took a hand and Musa was asked to play for the YMCA, where he was staying at the time, in a football tournament for the homeless, organised by the Rotary Club of South Cambridgeshire. He was named player of the tournament and later invited to attend regional trials for the England international homeless football team.

After six weeks of trials Musa was chosen to represent England in the 2010 Homeless World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, where he captained the side which finished 15th.

Musa, of Queen Meadows, Cambridge, said: “It was unbelievable that I was picked out of 500 to go to Brazil. I never thought I would be picked to play for an England squad.

“To be made captain just like the great West Ham and England hero Bobby Moore was such an honour.

“We had to be on our best behaviour representing England. To see kids living and lying in the streets with no money was a wake-up call. At least in England we can get help with living and money to get by.

“Talking to people who had worse situations than me concentrated my mind on getting a job and trying to make something of my life.”

Musa did two sports courses with Cambridge Regional College and found a job at a health club as a personal trainer. He now has a flat and has been in touch with his parents.

He also joined a voluntary project in North Africa partly funded by the college which involved him going to Morocco, teaching English and football skills to homeless youngsters there.

He also still turns out in a holding midfield role for Kershaw League Premier Division side Fulbourn.

Mike Smith, vice-president of South Cambridgeshire Rotary Club, nominated Musa for YOPEY. He said: “There has been a tremendous turnaround in Musa’s life from when I first came across him as a homeless person.”

Cambridgeshire YOPEY, first held in 2006, has spread to 12 English counties as well as Scotland.

Winners share �2,000 put up by organisations including Cambridge companies Redstone, CSR and Cambridge University Press, and Anglia Ruskin University.

Founder Tony Gearing said: “It’s great that through football and the help of various organisations Musa has not only turned his life around and got a job and home, but has also helped others and wants to do more volunteering.”

YOPEY awards will he held at Peterborough Cathedral on Tuesday, September 13 at 6.30pm.

Entry is free but anyone wishing to attend should email invites@yopey.org or call 0845 838 2640.