U21s quartet in ‘Next 20’

As England Under-21s prepare to head from Lithuania to Moldova for their final Euro qualifier on Tuesday, four members of the squad are doing their bit in tackling discrimination in football.

Captain Jack Butland, midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah, defender Jamaal Lascelles and winger Nathan Redmond have all been named part of the Kick It Out organisation’s ‘Next 20’ initiative.

This sees 20 young footballers from across the Premier League, Football League and The FA Women’s Super League (WSL) help to raise awareness of Kick It Out’s key messages of equality and inclusion.

Harry Kane (right) is congratulated on his winning goal against Lithuania

England won 1-0 on FIFA Fair Play Day in Lithuania

Launched last October, the ‘Next 20’ scheme has seen the chosen ambassadors spreading their knowledge and advice on battling discrimination in schools, colleges and prisons across the country.  

And with FIFA’s Fair Play Day taking place on the day of the side’s 1-0 victory over Lithuania in Kaunas last week, it was fitting that the quartet were all part of Gareth Southgate’s squad for that match and for Tuesday’s game with Moldova in Tiraspol.

One of the ‘Next 20’ events held so far featured Burnley loanee Chalobah, who visited Corpus Christi RC Primary School in Middlesbrough in March whilst he was on loan with the Teesside club from Chelsea last season. 

There he spoke about his experiences of first arriving in England as a young refugee from Sierra Leone, before answering questions from pupils on racism and discrimination.

“The message of Kick It Out is very important and there is no better place to start than with young children, so to be an ambassador is wonderful,” said the 19-year-old. 

“Sometimes you don’t think about certain things but however much you can contribute or whatever you can do to help, it’s always a pleasure. I’m proud and happy to come to schools for events.”

England Under-21s midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah in action against Lithuania.

Chalobah started Friday’s game in Kaunas

Working in conjunction with Paul Mortimer, Kick It Out’s Professional Player Engagement Manager, the ambassadors will continue to develop their understanding of the roles for the organisation through interaction at community visits.

Lascelles, currently back on loan with hometown club Nottingham Forest after sealing a transfer to Newcastle United this summer, is also proud to have been picked as one of the ‘Next 20’.

“For me it is really important to be an ambassador for Kick It Out,” he said. 

“Racism is something that used to be rife in the game before I was a player, but thanks to the work of organisations like Kick It Out, it has reduced greatly. 

“It’s important that kids who are watching or coming into the game now understand how to challenge it if they come across it and how they should handle it.”

To find out more about the ‘Next 20’, please visit the Kick It Out website by clicking here.