Clubs to watch : Rising Ballers Kensington FC

How many grassroots football clubs do you know? Here are some fun facts you may not have known before today!
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How many grassroots football clubs do you know?
How much do you know about them?
Here are some fun facts you may not have known until today!

#Staytuned #Herewego

Rising Ballers Kensington FC

Semi-pro club Kensington & Ealing Borough FC was originally founded as AFC Hillgate in 2012, renamed Kensington Borough FC in 2016 and becoming Kensington & Ealing Borough FC in 2019. Rising Ballers, as a football team, was built in 2019, before joining Kensington to become Rising Ballers Kensington ahead of the 22-23 season. They currently play in the Combined Counties League Division One and are based at North Greenford United Berkeley Fields ground in Sudbury.


Everything started out with the founders' experiences - Eni Shabani, Brendon Shabani, and Jamie Pollitt. Academy footballer Brendon thought that young players did not receive enough support and representation - "he was around academy footballers daily, yet there was no digital platform for them." Eni, as a consultant, was reading the media trends of the time and paid particular attention to Gen Z. Jamie was making videos of young football prospects - and also worked with the likes of Phil Foden before their rise to stardom. Eni and Brendon reached out and decided to work together and leveraged their respective expertise' to scale the Rising Ballers brand.Gillingham Town FC was founded in 2010 to tackle homelessness and alcoholism" - by giving people around Medway a focus and somewhere to play. Upon their move to Sittingbourne, the club considered changing names to match their region, but decided to keep their legacy behind the original name.


Hillgate originally joined the Middlesex County League Division Two (Step 9) upon their establishment and gained promotion after the 13-14 season (Step 8) but finished 6th in the following season. They moved to Spartan South Midlands League Division Two (Step 7) for the 15-16 season and finished 5th, earning another promotion to Division One (Step 6) for the 16-17 season, which they finished 12th. They were transferred to the Combined Counties League Division One (Step 6) for the 17-18 season, which they currently play in as Rising Ballers Kensington.


Iliman Ndiaye, who represented the Senegal National Team in 2022 Qatar World Cup, used to play for the Rising Ballers 3 years ago in Sunday League. He moved from the RB to Sheffield United before debuting for his nation in the first ever winter World Cup. Darius Johnson, currently at Jong Volendam in Holland, is another player who was with Rising Ballers before joining semi-pro club Kensington & Ealing Borough - then earning a trial at Chelsea. He nearly failed to make it to the pro stage despite having internships and trials with clubs like Queens Park Rangers, Tottenham Hotspur, Crawley Town, and Oxford United but his spell with Rising Ballers provided the momentum for him to keep going.


The success of the men’s team, which can be seen through the 8 players out of 20 who signed professional contracts in their first season with the Ballers with their content catching the eyes of bigger clubs, led to further grassroots initiatives - a women’s team and two full-time football & education colleges, one in London and one in Birmingham. They currently run four grassroots teams in the UK with more than hundred male and female players. Initially it was a selection of 20 - thinned down from the 5,000 applications received within just one week. Rising Ballers College provides a football pathway for those who don't make it professional such that they have a career in the industry of the sport they love.


Today, the Ballers have more than 3 million followers on social media, 30 million in monthly reach, and 100 million monthly impressions while engaging with a population where 91% are age 35 or under. They have also partnered with Nike, EA Sports, New Balance, Adidas, Playstation, and much more. Matchark is here to help and connect ambitious players to reach their next level - we can't wait to see where Rising Ballers takes their current players next!

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