A HARTLEPOOL teenager is just days away from flying to the World Cup finals in Brazil for a trip of a lifetime.
Michael Richardson is jetting out as part of the innovative Street League programme which is aimed at helping youngsters get on the jobs ladder.
The 17-year-old is part of a group of six teenagers picked for the dream 11-day trip to South America after graduating from the course run in Hartlepool from the Belle Vue Community Sports and Youth Centre, in Kendal Road.
The group fly out next week and will be based in Rio de Janeiro where they will take part in a football tournament, community events and help spread the word about the Tees Valley.
Michael, a former Manor College of Technology pupil, said: “I cannot wait to fly over there and experience the World Cup finals in Brazil.
“I have been watching the tournament closely and it is so exciting - it is going to be a fantastic experience.
“It will be great to take part in the tournament, but also experience a different culture and help spread the word about Hartlepool.
“I’d like to thank everybody who has made it possible and I know my friends and family are all really happy for me and jealous at the same time.”
It is the first time he has been abroad and the excited teenager said he can’t wait to visit Brazil with the group, which will also get tickets to watch a quarter final match inside the world-famous Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
“To watch a match in the Maracana Stadium is going to be an amazing experience,” added Michael, who lives in the Owton Manor area and is hoping to study a sports coaching course at Hartlepool College of Further Education.
Organisers say Michael was chosen because he deserved it for his attendance, commitment and attitude shown on the course.
The other five teenagers are all from Middlesbrough and they are Robert O’Connor, Jack McDonald, Sammy Powell, Hayley Forster and Blue Nawakamthon who are all aged between 16 and 18.
Street League is a national charity which aims to help 16 to 25-year-old men and women into employment, education and training.
Andy Gray, progessions co-ordinator at Street League, said: “The World Cup finals in Brazil is such a fabulous event and it will be fantastic to be part of it. We are all looking forward to the experience of a lifetime.”
The Brazil opportunity came about after Street League was invited to take part in the FIFA-backed Football for Hope Festival, a football tournament during the World Cup finals involving 32 similar organisations from around the world that use football as a means of social development.
Street League, which is the only UK-based organisation and one of four from across Europe taking part, works with those who are not in employment, education and training (NEET), including young offenders and substance misusers and the young people take part in a range of activities to build their employability.
Dean Cartwright, Tees Valley operations manager in Hartlepool, will also be flying out with the group.
The Street League academy sessions are held at Belle Vue Community Sports and Youth Centre, in Kendal Road, and The Southlands Centre, in Middlesbrough.
The aim of the intensive eight-week programme is to develop vital employability skills such as communication, teamwork and goal-setting and it also offers nationally-recognised qualifications.
The academy sessions at the Belle Vue Centre are open to men and women from all backgrounds and can cater for between 16 and 20 young people.
For more information about future academy programme call Andy Gray on 07584706889.