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Yo! Street Zone teaching street football and panna to youngsters in Margate and Cliftonville

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Some might view Thanet as an unlikely place to be leading a football revolution, but one inspiring skills coach is telling people to think again.

Six months ago 12-year-old Cliftonville-born Anna went viral in a video showing her effortlessly bamboozling an opponent double her size with a nutmeg.

Anna Picture: Yo! Street Zone
Anna Picture: Yo! Street Zone

She was playing panna, a one-on-one street game where the aim is to score in a mini goal by sliding the ball through the other person’s legs.

The video has been now been viewed millions of times and planted Kent firmly on the world map of the flourishing street football phenomenon.

Anna trained with skills coach Yofi Yvorra, who started Yo! Street Zone to inspire the kids of Thanet to take up the growing sport.

The 29-year-old from Margate realised local young people in the area had a keen interest in learning the skills he could teach.

He said: "I used to practice in local parks and kids used to gravitate towards me, I was like an unofficial youth leader kind of thing."

Yofi Yvorra is teaching street football to Thanet youngsters

Yofi started a football group in Cliftonville, soon realising the area was teeming with promising young people hungry to learn the beautiful game.

He said: "There are so many talents there - it gets called the most deprived area of England but I don't see that.

"Obviously it's raw street, and you have some kids that are into some stuff, but if you can try and bring a good influence you can veer them on a good path."

Now the organisation has been awarded £3,000 of funding through the Tackling Inequalities Fund, Yofi plans to put on weekly group lessons for more budding panna players once lockdown ends.

The stars of Thanet's street football scene

He said: "We're going to be doing street sessions right in the heart of Cliftonville, and that's where we've captured some of our best talents actually.

"With the skills, the flair, the raw talent, it's tangible and they see something, 'wow, I can actually do that, that's here in my neck of the woods?'"

The arrival of the third lockdown has put the sessions on hold, but Yofi believes young people being stuck inside means they'll need activities like street football more than ever when the restrictions lift.

He said: "Some kids have just been inactive, and it's been a tough thing for them to deal with - trying to have that motivation to keep working at skills and football.

The club wows crowds on the Thanet seafront Picture: Yo! Street Zone
The club wows crowds on the Thanet seafront Picture: Yo! Street Zone

"There have been some kids who have totally dropped it and they need that motivation, and that's one of the reasons why it's good for us to be there to help them, but at the same time some kids have actually used it as a motivation to continue sport."

Despite the temporary hold on his street football lessons, Yofi believes there are more future panna stars in Thanet waiting in the wings for their time in the spotlight

The skills coach said: "This little side of England - I know it might sound a bit cocky - but for me it's got the best panna players and street football players from the UK."

When the video of Anna's panna victory went viral in July, she was shocked so many people had watched it.

She said: "It was impressive and I really didn't expect it to happen."

Anna defeating her opponent - video courtesy of annaxpanna Instagram

Since then the 12-year-old has appeared on a Nike advert showing her skills off to the world, and has amassed thousands of Instagram followers in the process.

And she is not the only Thanet youngster making waves online.

Ralphy Holloway has been taking social media by storm with videos of his panna skills he learnt from lessons with Yofi and the Yo! Street Zone team.

With 75,000 followers on Instagram the 9-year-old is yet another reminder that the world of street football is sitting up and paying attention to Thanet's talented kids - in the words of Yofi and the team, the place 'where ballers are born.'

Read more: All the latest news from Thanet

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