Former De Montfort University student Mark Abolaji has created a new football league for students who don’t have a place in the university’s official squads, named ‘Active League’.
Mark, 23, who was raised in East London, Hackney, came to De Montfort University in 2015 and studied Mechanical Engineering and also got a PHD in Business Management in Sport.
Mark had been coaching in Leicester for a year before he was approached by a colleague about an idea of a separate league.
It piqued his interest so he took it further, looking at what was on offer at the university.
After his research he found that the official football squads didn’t take into consideration the hundreds of students who were turned away or didn’t get to have a trial for the university. He wanted to do something about it.
Also, during his coaching of DMU teams, he said he has found a disparity between all the players he knows and sees plus the range of ethnicities that they bring from all over the country and those who are lucky enough to be picked for the DMU official teams.
So, with the creation of the ‘Active league’ he wanted a pathway for those who maybe have talent but have not had the opportunity to be seen.
Mark said: “We created the active league for people who wanted to coach and wanted to play. To give them equipment and to be able to have competitive games.”
Mark spoke about his passion for the game of football as that drove him to push on with the league and he knows there are others who have the same passion.
He said: “People need to play football; football wasn’t there when the world was created but football created a new world.”
Mark found that coaching at DMU some of the players didn’t share the love of football that he did. He said: “It’s not that the players don’t love ball, it’s just that they’re here for the what comes along with it. The social.”
Mark’s main aim was to create a ‘football purist environment’. He said: “This platform is for people to express themselves, not only to play football but to coach, ref, record and to support.
“To create comfort for people who love football, because there is no better feeling than having a talk about football.”
Mark also talks about the importance of the league on people’s mental health, especially coming out of a pandemic.
He continued: “Football is a release for some people and a way to block out whatever else is happening. To not have that outlet must have a knock-on effect.
“It’s physical and mental exercise, you’re using your brain and your body, it is a pressure release for people.”