Forty years of badminton was celebrated at the Sobell Centre on Saturday 11th May with a special commemorative reunion event held by the Sobell Leisure Centre Badminton Club, in collaboration with the Roots of Sport Partnership project.

The Sobell Leisure Centre was officially opened in 1973 by the Duke of Edinburgh.  Forty years later the occasion was marked with a range of activities including a ‘hall of fame’ exhibition of trophies and pictures; coaching clinics, inspiring talks from founder members and an exhibition mixed match by Middlesex County 1st Team Players.  Festivities included a family fun day, a specially produced badminton learning pack and a tournament where juniors played alongside experienced players.

Tributes were paid to club founder Ismail Onan who started badminton while working at the Centre as a part time Sports Supervisor.  The sport grew in popularity and keen to add a competitive element Ish started the Thursday Night Club which gained many successes over the years and produced numerous county players.

Ish was presented with a trophy in recognition of his support and service to the Club. He said “I am honoured to be here and delighted to see so many old faces.  Badminton has been kind to me and has become an integral part of my life.  I have travelled, met people, learnt new skills and made good friends.  I am lucky to have worked with so many talented and special people here at the Club.”

Key speakers included successful local businessman Atique Choudry who felt his hard work, discipline and drive to compete at the highest levels also came to the fore in his business life.  He said “I lived at the Sobell Centre!  I trained hard and badminton taught me so much.  It’s so good to see our youngsters carrying on the great tradition of the club.”   

Amanda Ellison, Co-organiser of the event and Captain of the Ladies 1st team, began her playing career at the Centre as a toddler.  She said “I was overwhelmed by the attendance. It was fantastic to see three generations of players come together to celebrate our 40th birthday. Past, present and future players all heard about the history and heritage of the Sobell badminton club. The atmosphere was full of energy and everyone had a great day.”

Islington youth members and playing partners Sharriff Shaursueleen, from Stoke Newington Secondary School, and Cindy Wong, from Swanlea Senior School, are determined to get to the top in their chosen sport.  Both aged 15 they play other sports but badminton drives them on.  Sharrif said “I love it and it keeps me off the streets.  I want to play at county standard and in the nationals.” 

Cindy said “You meet lots of people and there is a mix of cultures at this club.  Other local clubs are mostly boys.”  The couple have already won some trophies so the future of Sobell Badminton Club is in good hands. Visit

The Reunion was a joint venture between social enterprise Roots of Sport, Scope4Success and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Hackney based Roots of Sport is a partnership of the Institute of Black Culture, Media and Sport, set up to strengthen and preserve the presence of African peoples and their descendants living and working in Britain. 

Founder and Chair Claudine Boothe said “Our projects commemorate leaders who have used sport to transform lives at both grassroots and elite levels.  This year our focus has been on table tennis, basketball and badminton and we feel privileged to work with the Sobell Centre.  This sport isn’t just about elite and able bodied players, we want to help expand access for disabled players.  We are keen to see diversity in sport wherever possible.”

Former Italian American professional basketball player Mike Speranza founded Scope4Success as a platform to mentor young people to achieve their potential.  Mike works with Sports in the Community on targeted programmes and is in partnership with Roots of Sport and the sports seminars.  For further information visit

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