A local community football team has announced plans for a merger, turning semi-professional and playing in the ninth tier of English football from next season.
Just two years after Hackney Wick FC was founded it looks set to play in the Essex Senior League (ESL) in the 2017/18 season, subject to a rubber stamp by the league.
The Citizen can reveal that The Wickers will merge with London Bari FC, who already play in the ESL.
Bobby Kasanga, the club’s founder, said that although the new club will play under the Hackney Wick name, the merger would be a “mix of the two entities”. Bari’s first team manager, as well as some players and members of the committee, will stay with the new club.
Kasanga told the Citizen that the new club will move out of Hackney, at least temporarily, because there is no semi-professional standard football ground in the borough. Instead, the team will play at London Bari’s current stadium in Newham.
“The council were not willing to build the facilities and there’s no place for us to play. We want to progress, and I had to make a decision,” he said. “Hopefully this will put pressure on the council.”
At time of publication, Hackney Council did not respond to a request for comment.
The Wickers, who have played their home games at Mabley Green, Lee Conservancy Road, finished seventh in the Middlesex County League Division One this season. They also progressed to the quarter final of the Presidents Cup, but lost to Tottenham Hale Rangers.
Kasanga started the club in April 2015 in a bid to “put Hackney on the map and get everyone supporting a local Hackney team”. In addition to the senior men’s team, The Wickers have a women’s side and eight youth teams, as well as running regular football workshops.
“The success is unprecedented, I’m very proud of how it’s progressed,” Kasanga added. He also praised his players for pledging to volunteer at least two hours a month for local good causes, including Sunday’s Hackney Half Marathon. He said: “It’s what sets us apart from other clubs”.
The merger will see Hackney Wick play in the preliminary rounds of the FA Cup and FA Vase next year, in addition to playing in the ESL.
As well as being the club’s founder and playing in the first team, Kasanga also coaches the outfit, while former Republic of Ireland under-21 international and owner of the Lauriston Pub Declan Perkins is vice chairman.
By Liam Kelly
Updated 20:18 - 5 Jun 2017 by Bobby Kasanga