AFC Bournemouth duo Ryan Fraser and Callum Stanton were on hand to present Premier League Primary Stars coordinator Matt Divine and Kicks community coach Aaron Scott with their Premier League Kicks Heroes comic strip on Wednesday evening.
Both Matt and Aaron have been working with the club's Community Sports Trust for a number of years, with Matt joining the college programme in 2010 and Aaron in 2013. Both have been a part of the Premier League Kicks programme since 2015.
And both of their stories have now been immortalised in a comic strip illustration designed by Marvel and DC Comics artist John McCrea, as part of the Premier League's ten-year celebration of the Kicks programme.
Premier League Kicks is a youth outreach programme with the aim to create safer, stronger and more respectful communities through the development of young peoples' potential, whilst giving young people access to facilities, coaching and mentoring.
In its first decade, Premier League Kicks has engaged more than 180,000 young people in weekly football, sport and personal development sessions held at local community venues across the UK. 68 Premier League, English Football League and National League clubs now run the programme.
AFC Bournemouth Community Sports Trust has been running Premier League Kicks for just over 18 months in which during this time have offer up 16 free football sessions a week for young people to get involved in.
Running Premier League Kicks has allowed the Community Sports Trust to offer young people opportunities that they may not have had otherwise, including representing AFC Bournemouth in Premier League Kicks fixtures and also accessing Premier League matches.
Head of Community Steve Cuss said: "Premier League Kicks has benefited the local community enormously, allowing boys and girls to regularly participate in football and be connected to AFC Bournemouth.
"Both Matt and Aaron have worked from day one on the project and helped to shape and develop the existing programme.”
Matt joined Bournemouth as soon as he left school in 2010 and joined the college programme which focussed on football coaching. He then continued at Bournemouth where he gained an apprenticeship. Matt started helping out with the Kicks programme in 2015 where he assisted the lead deliverer at Bourne Academy. He now heads up that Kicks session as well as leading others such as Blandford School Kicks.
Aaron is a FA Level 2 qualified coach and has been part of the Kicks programme since 2015. He started off running the sessions on the 3G pitches next to Vitality stadium. Now, on top of that, he runs two more sessions at a local estate called Turlin Moor. His proudest achievements are taking both a boys and girls team to Nottingham to take part in the annual Kicks tournament and winning the Fair Play Award with the girls’ side.
Speaking of the club's two Premier League Kicks Heroes, Fraser said: "It’s great to see Matt and Aaron get their moment in the spotlight. They are the real heroes in this community and it’s nice to see their hard work being rewarded. Premier League Kicks is a fantastic scheme that is helping get young kids off the streets and playing. Matt and Aaron deserve a lot of credit for what they do."
Matt said: "The most enjoyable part about PL Kicks is working with young children/teenage children who have come from a similar background to myself and seeing how much football and PL Kicks has inspired them. The sessions are fun and engaging, also free of charge so they are accessible to anyone and everyone."
Aaron added: "I was inspired to become involved with Kicks because of my love for football and the fact that potentially making a positive impact on a group of younger kids gives me a real buzz. It’s great coming down to Kicks to see the kids turn up and just enjoying playing football. Also, seeing them develop over the weeks in playing ability but also in self-confidence."
The AFC Bournemouth Community Sports Trust has also benefited greatly from the Kicks programme, with numbers of those involved quadrupling in the last seven months.