Team-mates from Chelsea and other academies learning about inclusion through 'Equality Inspires' programme's use of short film
"We want you to watch a film. It's 30 minutes long, and it's about a footballer. Then we'll have a conversation about it."
Chelsea's Development Squad are being introduced to Bradley McGuire, a player they can identify with - he's young, talented, and desperate to succeed. There's a slight tension in the room at the club's Cobham training ground as Bradley's story unfolds on screen, the sounds of team-mates whispering and shuffling in seats. Yet the drama holds their attention throughout, as the action skips from a highly-charged Premier League match to the next day's training session, from a Soho hotel suite at night to the Wembley tunnel. As the credits roll and the lights come up, the young Blues are back in the here and now - and ready to chat about what they've seen.
Troy Townsend, leading the session, steps forward once again to address the audience, some of whom have been taken out of their personal comfort zones by the film's subject matter. They've all empathised with Bradley from early on, but have then learned that he's dealing with an additional type of pressure - he happens to be gay and wants to come out, but he's not sure if he'll be accepted by his team-mates, and by football in general. "A lot of the players say they've never had to deal with anything like this in their environment," says Townsend. "There's a nervousness around that immediately, and how to approach it." As Kick It Out's Education Manager, he's here to broach the topic and encourage a discussion. The short film, WONDERKID, is his icebreaker - and it's proving to be a highly effective one at academies across the country.
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Watch the film here