Thinking Outside the Penalty Box

You are knocked down, but you rise,
Running towards the net,
You were ready to fly

And you flew.

from ‘Eniola Aluko’ by Amelia Doherty

In early 2018, The Poetry Society’s Young Poets Network teamed up with Thinking Outside the Penalty Box, run by Lizzy Attree and Nick Makoha, to inspire young poets to look beyond the headlines and stereotypes at the experiences of African footballers playing in the UK. Thinking Outside the Penalty Box seeks to tackle racism with positive, inspirational stories around the incredible achievements of the players, including work with Chelsea and Arsenal Football Clubs in schools.

In partnership with Thinking Outside the Penalty Box, Young Poets Network challenged young poets to think further about these themes. We profiled footballers and prompted young writers to think about the unexpected links between poetry and the ‘beautiful game’. Even more poems were created as part of a free poetry masterclass with Kayo Chingonyi at The Poetry Society.

In the anthology below, you can read the poems created in the workshop, alongside the Young Poets Network challenge winners and four commissioned poems by Nick Makoha, Roger Robinson, Sugar J and Kayo Chingonyi. We hope you will agree that poetry and football are successful team-mates.

To find out more about Thinking Outside the Penalty Box, download Lizzy Attree and Nick Makoha’s introduction to the project.

Young Poets Network is a key part of The Poetry Society’s mission to support young poets and poetry-lovers. If you’re inspired by the poems presented here, visit our online platform at to read the resources given for this project, as well as further poems, articles and new writing challenges.