From Gangs To Goals: How Football Saved England Midfielder Dele Alli

Football provided a welcome distraction from the path Dele Alli was seemingly heading down.

The beautiful game has given him plenty of blessings in life including representing England at the World Cup, as well as an avenue to carve out a desirous profession.

The 22-year-old, who scored for England against Sweden at the World Cup, nearly became a product of his environment. Growing up in modest surroundings of Bradwell, he nearly steered down the wrong trail until football offered him a career lifeline.

"I got into the wrong crowd from an early age," Alli told Evening Standard.

"Football was a great distraction from the path I was heading down. I'm very lucky to have met people who helped through the hardest of times and have helped me grow into the person I am today.

"There's a lot that people don't know about me, but a lot of people seem to think they know about me, I've learned not to take anything for granted.

"I get to have football as a job. But you have to fight for things in life."

Alli in action for England at the World Cup. Image: PA
Alli in action for England at the World Cup. Image: PA

Football forged a path away from gang culture with the highly-rated youngster eventually being snapped up by local side Milton Keynes Dons where he instantly shot to fame.

Alli graduated from the clubs youth academy and broke into the first-team aged just 16. He made his anticipated debut in the FA Cup before making his league bow a few months later.

The robust midfielder continued to ply his trade with MK Dons, and attracted interest following his heroics on the pitch. Among those keen on securing his services; Tottenham Hotspur who ultimately signed him in 2015 after tabling a £5 million offer.

And his troubled upbringing remains etched with him today. It's shaped the person he is, and it's played a prevalent role on the field.

"There was a car park where I used to go and play with my friends using bikes for goalposts. I think you can see that in my game. I used to watch YouTube tricks and then try them out.

"I always played with no fear. When I played as a kid, it was always with the older boys. It wasn't unusual for me to be coming up against men," he added.

Alii not succumbing to a life on the streets as a gang member is another shining example of how powerful football really is. Here's a young lad who has come close to being another statistic in a worrying epidemic. However, football navigated an existence while distancing him from gang life.

Football as a positive vehicle provides inspiration to kids across the country who may be struggling with their own personal battles.

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

Nasir Jabbar

Nasir Jabbar is a journalist at SPORTbible. He graduated from Bath Spa University with a BA in Media Communications. He's a combat sport aficionado, and has contributed to MMA websites AddictedMMA and CagePotato. Nasir has covered some of the biggest fights, while interviewing the likes of Conor McGregor, Michael Bisping and Anthony Joshua. He's also an avid Bristol City fan.

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