From talent scout to soccer coach: How Tony Hassan founded family club Soccaroonies in Clissold Park

Tony Hassan teaching his football team, the Soccaroonies. Picture: Anthony Hassan

Tony Hassan teaching his football team, the Soccaroonies. Picture: Anthony Hassan - Credit: Anthony Hassan

​The founder of Clissold Park’s Soccaroonies, Tony Hassan, tells Emma Bartholomew how he came up with his idea for a family soccer club

Before Tony Hassan set up his family soccer school 10 years ago, he was a talent scout for then premier league teams Charlton and Millwall – but soon became disillusioned with the “regimental” way children were being taught.

When policy was introduced to take on kids as young as five, preventing them from playing for any other teams apart from their school, he decided to call it a day.

“They were beginning to tell me to stick them up as soon as they could kick a ball and it was against my philosophy that children should be free to play with their friends and have fun,” said Tony, who decided to direct his passion for the game into coaching children after he suffered an injury plying semi-professionally himself.

“One of the reasons was: pick them up so the likes of Arsenal or Tottenham wouldn’t have a look in. Get them in so the others couldn’t have them rather about how good they were.

“They were coming back from training without smiles on their faces, and for me the idea is to leave it happier than when you first arrived.”

Tony, 49, a bespoke architectural ironmonger who has supplied the likes of Kate Middleton, the Oasis brothers and Madonna at work, spent a year pondering the best ways to teach football.

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He came up with the concept behind Soccaroonies, where children and parents interact with each other.

He runs the school in Clissold Park “on the blades of grass he was taught on as a five-year-old” next to the tennis courts.

“It’s close to my heart,” said Tony, a father-of-three who went to St Matthias Primary School and then Woodberry Down.

“Some parents would come along to the training and be on their phones all the time, but I want the children to be proud of their achievements and for them to be aware of how proud their parents are of them too. It’s about getting them away from the screen and Xboxes and to go back to how we were – and not be in such an antisocial environment where everyone is staring at screens.”

Over the past four years they have raised £6,000 for Grenfell, narcolepsy and suicide through annual charity football matches.

This year they will raise money for The Crib youth club, where Tony went himself in the ’80s.

They are still looking for adults to play at “Soccaroonies do The Crib” from 11am to 4pm on May 26, and raffle prize donations.