OH Leuven: Local football pitch ‘CASABLANCA’ festively celebrated

25 July 2022

OH Leuven: Local football pitch ‘CASABLANCA’ festively celebrated

Casablanca in Kessel-Lo is one of the seven neighbourhoods where the city of Leuven focuses on community work. Today, the brand new football pitch on the Prins-Regentplein was festively inaugurated. The City of Leuven renovated it in collaboration with OH Leuven, which raised 25,000 euros for the project.

Today the renovated football square on Prins Regentplein was festively opened for the neighbourhood in the presence of Mayor Mohamed Ridouani, aldermen Dirk Vansina and Johan Geleyns, Peter Willems, CEO of OH Leuven and Susan Whelan, CEO of Leicester FC, OH Leuven’s British sister club. A delegation of the staff and players of both teams were also present. Former players and fans of both teams competed against each other in football matches on the new square, and children from the neighbourhood had the time of their lives during the penalty shoot-out.

“OH Leuven is more than a football club. Our club wants to have a positive impact on the local community. All employees gave their best for months to raise money for the reconstruction of the football field in Kessel-Lo. I would like to explicitly thank them and everyone who contributed. This initiative fits in perfectly with our vision and I am proud that we have been able to work with the city of Leuven to create a place where children can be together, play sports and develop their talents,” […] “Thanks to this collaboration, Prins-Regentplein has now been transformed into a modern football pitch in the middle of the district. A place where children can play sports, discover their talents and simply enjoy playing football together. The square was given a new surface, a modern football cage with football goals and basketball rings. A skate park had previously been built in the neighbourhood. Young people started playing there immediately after the complete renovation of the football pitch. For us, this makes it clear once again how important good public space is for the neighbourhood. It gives young people opportunities to meet each other, make new friends and develop their skills,” says Dirk Vansina, alderman for public works and youth. […]”Both the city and OH Leuven believe it is important for all people in Leuven to have access to sport,” says alderman for sport Johan Geleyns. Offering the neighbourhood children a good sports infrastructure is therefore important. The first division club and the city therefore decided to co-finance the renovation of the football pitch on Prins-Regentplein. “The city invested 125,000 euros. In addition, OH Leuven’s entire staff put their weight behind the project,” said alderman Vansina. For seven months they walked and ran to raise 25,000 euros for the reconstruction.

Peter Willems, CEO of OH Leuven.

OH Leuven in the Neighbourhood

The Casablanca district in Kessel-Lo is home to a diverse group of Leuven residents. The social rental flats are home to elderly people, single people and young families with children.

“From the Casablanca community centre, we do community work here to strengthen the quality of life together,” […] “In January 2021, we started training five young people to become football coaches. In the meantime, one of the coaches has moved on to become a member of OH Leuven’s youth team and ten young people are already taking the course. And the project continues to grow, because children and young people from the Hoogland community work also train with us and we are also expanding the project in Sint-Maartensdal,” […] “At the same time, by bringing young and old together on and around the football pitch, social cohesion in the neighbourhood grows, children get to know each other, discover the joy of sport and their self-confidence is boosted,”

Bieke Verlinden, Alderwoman for welfare and community work

The renovation is part of the ‘OH Leuven in the Neighbourhood’ project, a collaboration between OH Leuven on the one hand and the City of Leuven via Buurtsport and the urban community centres on the other. Since the start of 2021, the project has given children and young people from the neighbourhood the opportunity to learn about football. OH Leuven offers the neighbourhood youths training to become coaches, along with sporting and logistical support. These young coaches then in turn give weekly training to other children and young people from the neighbourhood.

“By supporting the young people when they are training themselves, we not only strengthen their football skills but also their coaching talents. The coaches in training thus become role models in whom other young players recognize themselves. This is the ‘for and by young people’ principle that is central to our youth policy. Through the close ties with OH Leuven, the dream of one day playing at OH Leuven itself is coming a little closer”.

Dirk Vansina

“We have noticed that our neighbourhood children and young people like to play football, but many of them do not join a sports club for various reasons. This collaboration with OH Leuven brings them a step closer to a sports club and encourages them to get involved in sport in a casual way,”.

Alderman Johan Geleyns

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