Arlesey to welcome football squad of Grenfell Tower survivors and bereaved this weekend

The Arlesey community will welcome a football team comprised of Grenfell Tower survivors and the bereaved.

By Jo Robinson
Wednesday, 27th July 2022, 2:22 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th July 2022, 2:22 pm

The heroic sportsmen will be playing a match against Arlesey Town FC on July 30 in what will be the Londoners' first game against a semi-professional team.

Based in Chiswick, the side was founded merely days after tragic fire in June 2017 with Dave Kitson, chairman of Arlesey Town, volunteering to coach the brave squad.

Grenfell Athletic FC player Joseph John, 31, said: "It brings us together, as a community, as a family, as a brothership.

Arlesey Town FC, and right, the event poster. Images: Arlesey Town FC.

"It's really important to play for the badge on our chest; we play for our community and the 72 lives that were lost."

Joseph, his former partner (who was disabled), and one-year-old son escaped from the tower, with Joseph carrying both his loved ones out of a window and over a gate - a dangerous feat against all the odds.

The family-of-three lived on the second floor, and were initially told to stay put and wait for help, but as they saw the flames spreading quickly, they took their chances and fled.

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Joseph shared his official Grenfell Tower Inquiry statement with the Chronicle.

A section reads: "It looked like the building was being eaten away on the outside. It looked like a death trap, no-one was going to be able to survive on the upper floors. The ones who did, they are very, very blessed.

"We saw mothers, grandmothers, kids - screaming. Bawling for help. They were inside the flats. I saw some of them trying to make ropes with cloths and curtains to reach down the building, but it didn't help."

Joseph told the Chronicle that after a tragedy you can never truly move forward, but that Grenfell Athletic FC has done wonders for his mental health.

"Words can't say how much the club has helped me," he explained. "The management, the players, it's electric. I have come a long way."

Grenfell Athletic FC was co-founded by Paul Menacer (a survivor and bereaved) and Rupert Taylor, a community leader in the Ladbroke Grove area.

Since then, it has raced through the Sunday leagues to their Premier Division, where the side finished second, and the club plans to go semi-pro next season.

Dave said: "It is a very emotional and humbling experience.

"We try to provide a weekly respite during which they can leave the horrors of what they've been through at the door, while carrying the memory of the 72 innocent people who died, onto the pitch in their hearts."

Joseph, originally from Trinidad, added: "Dave has been a star. He's been a brother, he's been a father, he's done a lot for the club and community.

"It's all about Ubuntu; all for one, we are together as Grenfell Athletic, united for life."

'Arlesey Town FC v Grenfell Athletic FC' will take place at New Lamb Meadow, Arlesey, with a bar and food from midday, and kick off at 3pm.

Adult tickets cost £8, concessions are £5 and under 16s go free.

Before the match there will be a 72 second silence in memory of the 72 people that lost their lives.

Joseph added: "I believe that Grenfell happened for a reason. The public can't be put into homes that are unsafe.

"Fight for your human rights."