Football Black List 2022: Ciaran Baxendale

Ciaran Baxendale has been named on the Football Black List 2022 as one of the leading ‘Practitioners’ in the country. The award recognises Ciaran’s leadership of Football Beyond Borders’ programme with Manchester United and England player Marcus Rashford, who also makes the list in the ‘Players - Off The Pitch’ category. 

Ciaran and Presenter Kyle Walker

Ciaran is a lifelong Manchester City fan. This was a journey that started in the home end of Maine Road, on the receiving end of a difficult result against Coventry. How times change. 

Just a decade later, Ciaran was behind the goal, 10 rows back from Sergio Aguero’s league title winner at the Etihad Stadium, securing their first Premier League title and a moment of euphoria which Ciaran reflects on fondly. 

“The goal is a complete blur - the first thing I remember after we scored is being on the pitch standing next to Samir Nasri and Djibril Cisse” 

His journey from football fan to one of the leading practitioners in the sector is just over a year in the making, with Ciaran’s first conversations with Rashford taking place in the early stages of developing the programme in partnership NIKE and FBB’s Programme Design team. 

“I prepared everything I had to say but still felt nervous, but after a brief talk about what we would need to do to get ball rolling him [Rashford] and his team were on board straight away”

Ciaran had been at FBB for just over a year after he joined during the tumult of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2021. Ciaran describes the journey with nonchalance, as if starting and delivering an entirely new programme from scratch to hundreds of young people is something he could do time and again, if required. 

“It started by making the most of the relationships we had with schools to get them excited for the new project.

“Rashford was big on giving people a plan-b if they don’t make it as footballers.

“For me it's about confidence building. Settling in school. Figuring out what you’re good at and running with it as opposed to what you think you should be good at.”

The programme highlight so far? No so much as a flinch when asked.

“Graduation. Six schools. 120 young people. All in one place who'd never met each other before. 

“When he [Rashford] walked in it was just chaos -for the young people, being with Rashford in that space was so special”

“There was one school who was struggling to get there. A few people really went the extra mile to make sure they could attend - that moment gave me a lot of energy. 

“They could have easily not done it, they had to come from one side of Manchester to the other. They had to speak to parents, school, and the headteacher. Explaining the importance of the moment. That really shows what FBB do and the power of FBB, because it could have been easy to stay at home and not make those phone calls”

Michael Welch, singer for Mic Lowry and Content Creator/Youth Practitioner for Football Beyond Borders had only positive reflections for his colleague.

“He was always willing to do more. 

“When it gets down to the nitty gritty and doing the most, going beyond for young people, you can see where a lot of people might fall off - but Ciaran excels. He’s the ideal person to pioneer this project in the North West” 

Ciaran studied French and Spanish and speaks six different native tongues (English, Catalan, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese) and another that very few master - the ability to connect with young people with his words. 

Ciaran has worked in higher education in France, and in a primary school in Spain. His profound intelligence and natural aptitude for communication, combined with years of hard work and thirst for discovering language and culture to enable deep connection with people is clear. 

“I think speaking other languages has helped with my youth work.

“In specific cases where there’s young people who speak Spanish, French or Portuguese at home, when they understand that I can speak those languages it’s an extra layer of relationship. 

“There's a famous Nelson Mandela quote which says if you speak to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head, but if you speak to a man in his own language, it goes to his heart.”

Ciaran Baxendale is forever etched onto the Football Black List 2022. The programme he leads in partnership with NIKE and Marcus Rashford has already changed the lives of hundreds of young people across south Manchester in Wythenshaw, Chorlton, Burnage and Salford. 

Whether it’s within football, youth work or anything in between - it seems Ciaran is set to speak his dreams into existence in whatever languages he chooses.

Follow the journey...

I: c.baxo

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