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Football’s collective voice must be mobilised to rid the streets of knives | Richard Williams

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Top players, the FA and the Premier League need to devote time, energy and influence to persuading teenagers to ‘drop the knife and save a life’

Like many 10-year-old boys throughout Britain in the year 2000, Damilola Taylor was a fan of Manchester United, happily in thrall to the team of Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Andy Cole. He loved playing the game, too. Today, 18 years after he bled to death in the stairwell of a Peckham housing estate, his name is on the youth centre where he practised his skills.

Beyond the fact he had left Lagos for south London a few months earlier with his mother and a sister who needed specialised treatment for epilepsy, a love of football was among the few things that could be used to build a picture of Damilola when the news of his death made headlines in a Britain that could still be shocked by the idea of children killing each other. Now the connection is made all the time in reports of boys dying by violence on the streets. An involvement in rap music is often mentioned. But football is the interest that, by providing the victims with a sense of aspiration, most frequently gives us a clue to who they were.

Related: Knife crime: how teenagers cope with daily life on the front line

A weekend, or a month, or an entire season could be devoted to getting the message across

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