Long-serving Sunderland Kicks coaches Mark Pae and Ian Corner are the latest individuals to have their story immortalised in a comic illustration after the Foundation of Light nominated them to receive the Premier League Kicks Heroes accolade.

Premier League Kicks is a youth outreach programme with the aim to create safer, stronger and more respectful communities through the development of young peoples’ potential, whilst giving young people access to facilities, coaching and mentoring.  

In its first decade, Premier League Kicks has engaged more than 180,000 young people in weekly football, sport and personal development sessions held at local community venues across the UK. 68 Premier League, English Football League and National League clubs now run the programme.  

Mark Pae and Ian Corner both joined the Foundation of Light ten years ago, and have worked continually within the community to help expand the reach of the programme, help reduce anti-social behaviour and provide a safe outlet for young people to take part in sport activity and other skills-based workshops.  

Their stories are the latest to be turned into a comic strip illustration designed by Marvel and DC Comics artist John McCrea.  

Ian Corner, Kicks lead for Sunderland North added: “It’s great to see that Premier League Kicks has been such a success and that, ten years on, we are able to continue and build on the great work the local stakeholders, forces and the club have worked so tirelessly on. To be nominated as a Premier League Kicks Hero is a bit of a shock to be honest. To work on such a diverse and exciting programme, and see the benefit it has on those in the local area is reward enough.”  

Mark Pae, Kicks lead for Chester-le-Street said: “Chester-le-Street needed a programme like Kicks. The young people in the area needed somewhere safe to meet up, where they could be themselves but also better themselves. Through the help and support they’ve gained through Kicks and the Foundation of Light we’ve been able to provide that.”  

Duncan Watmore, Sunderland AFC footballer, stated: “Ian, Mark and all of the team at the Foundation of Light should be commended for the great work they do on the Sunderland Kicks programme. It’s great to hear how their efforts have led to the Foundation of Light establishing popular weekly free sessions that encompass not just football but other vocational or educational work that might be of interest to those in the area.  

“Ian and Mark having worked on Kicks since the Premier League introduced it in 2006, is I’m sure a testament to their belief in the positive and life-changing results of the programme. I’m sure many local young people would join me in thanking both and Ian and Mark for making them aware of the Sunderland Kicks sessions and for supporting them not only on the pitch but off of it too.”

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