'The Last Stand': The Street Football Tournament That Inspires And Saves Lives

Growing up in this environment, we are set to believe that nothing is achievable. 'Only people from certain backgrounds can achieve.'
It's not until you step out of your comfort zone and take a chance, then you realise that anything is achievable - Olu Maintain.

If you chat to someone from the inner city circle, a large majority will tell you that opportunities are scarce. You can find yourself getting dragged into trouble because of a lack of stimulation, but a man going by the name of Gundeep Anand wanted to change that mentality and perception with a football tournament like no other.

Gundeep is a director and photographer from West London, whose passion flows from community and socially led projects. In 2016, he wanted to unite communities and break down barriers through sport, so he created 'The Last Stand' - the answer to this city's increasing postcode wars.

'The Last Stand' is a street football tournament that brings together teams from different parts of London. Basically you've got five minutes to win. The first to score two goals goes through and the winner stays on. There are six teams from six London boroughs and there's one prize.

Of course, the competitive aspect of the competition is great for those involved, but there's a much deeper meaning behind this initiative. It unites different cultures, different religions and different ethnicities through the power of sport.

The Last Stand
The Last Stand

The Last Stand
The Last Stand

This tournament has not only brought a huge amount of positivity to a community, but it has changed lives.

"These kids are being educated to fail, but we are using sport to unite people and break down barriers that can often cause conflict or divisiveness amongst communities." Gundeep told SPORTbible. "We want to show them that they can achieve and to help create opportunities for them to do so."

"Kids in the area don't believe they can achieve their dreams, so I created this project to make dreams become a reality. It combines different cultures and it unites people. It's creating genuine opportunities for these kids. We want to showcase their talent both on and off the screen. We want them to become stars within their own communities, because we believe in them and want to share their gifts with the world.

"We can celebrate humanity and solve problems at the same time by empowering them through football. The power of the community is so important. We can open the lid of imagination. Anything is possible when you put your mind to it. I didn't anticipate how influential this tournament would become. People have become presenters, models and photographers thanks to this initiative.

"These people are representing who they are and it's so pure. That's what connected with people. They are being supported by friends came down to watch. It's so important to do things you're passionate about, regardless of what it is."

Here's a flavour of what The Last Stand is all about:


Somebody who has benefited from the power of The Last Stand is Olu Maintain, a man who seriously considered taking his own life before the tournament gave him hope. He went on to new beginnings after struggling and now helps those who don't believe they can achieve their dreams.

Olu started playing football at the age of seven. He was on the books of Tottenham Academy until the age of 19 and after being released from the Premier League side, he went on to play for AFC Wimbledon, Norwich and Falkirk, but eventually found himself back in London.

"My football wasn't the best up until my last year at Falkirk." Olu told SPORTbible. "I wasn't getting in the team, I was getting down. On top of that I had a child on the way. I can't even put into words how frustrating it was. It was so demoralizing - going into training and being treated the way i was treated. Football is cruel.

"I left there and I tried to find a team in London. It was so difficult. If you weren't successful at your last club then nobody cares. I eventually got persuaded into playing non league football, but I didn't really want to play in it. I didn't give it my all. I was doing things I shouldn't have been doing.

The Last Stand
The Last Stand

"I was getting involved in the wrong crowds. I just spiraled out of control. I was running in circles trying to figure out who I was. Where my life was going. It took me to a low like I've never felt before. I used to wake up and it was like I didn't know who I was anymore. I woke up and. Wow. I'm just taking it in now. I woke up and it was like...I can't even explain it.

"It was like an outer body experience. I was doing things, and things were happening around me, but I had no control. I hit rock bottom after I had my son - which was the highlight of my life - and then i had other things surrounding it. Family problems, personal problems. But I felt like I couldn't talk to anyone. i felt so alone. As I said before It was like an outer body experience to the point where I thought. What's the point of living.

"I remember going to the park one time and I sat down there with a bottle. I had a load of pills in my pocket and i just thought, fuck it. What's the point. At this point in my life I had a son, a beautiful girlfriend. But I just wasn't happy. I was playing football part time but even football didn't give me that happiness I was longing for."

The Last Stand
The Last Stand

After almost taking his own life, everything changed for Olu when his son watched a video on his mobile phone. It was the soundtrack to The Last Stand trailer and Olu was instantly hooked. "I was chilling my my son in the house and he was playing with my phone. I heard this music and i grabbed it from him. I recognised the two lads. Alex and Raf." he told SPORTbible.

"I called Raf quickly and said "Yo bro, what is this video I'm seeing?" - he was talking about the street tournament (The Last Stand). 'Bring me, bring me' I said. but it wasn't his team. Then I found out they were filming and he invited me along. It was a good hour away on public transport. I texted him to say I was 20 minutes away but in reality I was around an hour late.

"I needed to go in there with a bang. I didn't want to make a bad impression. Gundeep must of thought I was mad. I got there, full of energy - sliding tackles all over the place. The last time I felt that energy was at Tottenham. Being around my friends and having the world see what four friends can put together and the kind of energy and the positivity that we can inflict on people so people can see our energy.

"They can see that no matter what problems you are going through that good, positive influences around you can help you. You forget about all the stresses around you. That was my problem. I didn't know what I was doing. I was surviving off money from my time at Tottenham and Norwich.

The Last Stand
The Last Stand

The Last Stand
The Last Stand

Olu's life has changed dramatically since he decided to attend The Last Stand:

"Looking back, I didn't think the Last Stand would have this much of an impact on my life. I'm doing with stuff Puma and LADbible now. I'm directing and producing videos now. The fact that I'm doing these things on the budget that I have. I've got a team around me that I can flood my ideas too.

"Growing up in the environment I've grown up in, we're set to believe that nothing is achievable. Only people from privileged backgrounds can have these kind of things and it's not until you step out of yourself and take a chance, then you realize anything is achievable and that's the impact the last stand has had on me."

London's biggest street football tournament is coming to Birmingham on Sunday April 8, as six teams will battle it out to become champions. Be there.

SPORTbible's campaign More Than A Game tells the stories about football and its power beyond the pitch. Find out more here.

Go and visit The Last Stand website - thelaststand.co.uk and grab yourself a free ticket for this Sunday's event - https://bit.ly/LastStandBrum

Jack Kenmare

Jack Kenmare is a writer at SPORTbible. He's interviewed some huge names in the world of sport, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pele, Carles Puyol and Tim Henman. He dabbles in all things sport, but football is his biggest passion. He was once hit in the head by a wayward strike from Nicky Butt and lived to tell the tale.

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