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instead of using their brains
The last time I saw Rio was a few weeks before in the summer when I went to play at the Damilola Taylor centre in Peckham,” says Frank Nouble. “Everyone who we used to play with was there – John Bostock, Mustapha Carayol, Daniel Johnson and a few others who went on to make it as pros. He came over before the game and gave me a Ribena because that’s the type of person that he was. A couple of days later, I heard what had happened.”
Nearly eight years since the promising young striker Rio McFarlane was killed after being caught in the crossfire between two feuding gangs in south London, the latest outbreak of violence on
the capital’s streets brought the bad memories rushing back for the Newport County forward Nouble. A member of the Aspire football academy, the 18-year-old McFarlane had already turned out for Dulwich Hamlet and was tipped to follow in the footsteps of his talented school friends, many of whom – like Nouble – have gone on to enjoy lengthy professional careers.
Instead, a single gunshot fired from a submachine gun struck McFarlane in the chest and he died two hours later after paramedics failed to resuscitate him. Rio Ferdinand, who had grown up on the same streets and was a friend of McFarlane’s older brother Anthony, was among those to appeal for information to find his killer. Leon Pacquette was eventually sentenced to 35 years in prison for his murder in 2014.
“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” says Nouble. “When I got the news I had a game the next day for West Ham’s reserves. It was a real shock to the system because we were all so close. He epitomised the friendship that we all had – everyone just wanted to play football. After that, we all stayed
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at home because nobody wanted to get caught in the crossfire.”
Nouble, 26, has racked up almost 200 league appearances since he was a highly rated prospect in Chelsea’s youth academy. His career has taken him to all four of England’s professional leagues and a shortlived stint in China. Now settled in south Wales at his 17th club – including loans – it was the murder of the teenager Tanesha Melbourne-Blake in Tottenham last week that prompted him to speak out on Twitter.
“This knife and gun crime recently in London GOTTA STOP!” he wrote. “I lost a close friend to this innocent person in cross fire… life itself is hard already got one chance at it. We must encourage each other to do and be better. Kids out here need the guidance. Life can be great if we live it.”
Two more murders the following day took the number of people killed on London’s streets this year to above 50, prompting last week’s summit when the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, met the home secretary, Amber Rudd, and the Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, to discuss how to tackle the surge in serious crime. But Nouble, who grew up in Deptford, believes that the police need more support
from society at large.
“Stop and search is one thing but they need to work harder to prevent these attacks,” he says. “We need to see more patrols in the areas where this is happening. Everyone just seems to think they can get away with it.
“When I was younger, you would be scared to even think about carrying something because we were always told you are more likely to get attacked if you have a weapon. But that mentality has changed.
“People are using anything as a weapon these days, so it’s difficult to say what should be done,” Nouble adds. “The younger generation has a different mentality but I don’t think that is entirely their fault. When I was younger, there was a lot more community things going on and less technology. If you wanted to see your mate you would have to go and knock for him at his house whereas now everything is online. The first thing they look for is their phone, but for me and my
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friends it was our football.
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