If you know anything about the YouTube/Sunday League football scene at the moment, then you have definitely heard of the SE Dons. Known for their spirit, antics and consistency, the Dons, who were founded in 2014 by Andrew McHugh (Don Strapzy) and Ryan Palmer, have amassed over 120,000 subscribers on YouTube and sold thousands of tickets for the Kent Cup and Paul Picard Cup – something unheard of in Sunday League football.
This rise can be explained by the Don’s authenticity, linking to an idea of what it means to be a man or a human being for the matter. The Dons mean much more than a group of men playing football together every week, although that in itself is fulfilling. It allows friends to socialize and compete together and helps to build a community, which extends to the fans. However, it is the Don’s values and purpose that make it more than football and make them a great example for anyone anywhere.
There are so many characters that make up the SE Dons team but I think the best place to start is with the captain, George Kamurasi, AKA Big G, the embodiment of passion and Mr. Longest 90.
From his exterior, you might be intimidated by George Kamurasi. He is 6’6 and Ugandan. However, from watching the Dons repeatedly, I have been able to appreciate his human side and respect the way that he carries himself, through his morals and values. He takes responsibility and never gives up.
For instance, in the Paul Picard Cup final against Kenningwell United, Big G stepped up and was able to back his talk of ‘big games, big players’. After 90 minutes the game was tied at 1-1, SK (Salvyn Kisitu) and Ryan Palmer were arguing over the goal that they conceded and the Dons were in need of someone to steady the ship. Big G, being the man that he is, did not back down from the opportunity and gave what is now a legendary speech. He took responsibility saying ‘I wanna be in a battle’, ‘I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else’ and questioned the Dons’ strength. He not only said this but backed up his talk in the game, in which he made three crucial, big saves that enabled the Dons to go on and win the game and the cup, in a Man of the Match performance.
The day of the game was the day before the 15th anniversary of Big G losing his mother. This explains the emotion he felt when giving his team talk at 90 minutes saying that ‘I prayed for strength when I lost people’ but ‘He [God] doesn’t give you strength, He gives you opportunities to show how strong you are’. He also shed tears after the game for his mother and in an episode of ‘Meet the Dons’, he was able to go into more detail about his experiences.
At 14 years old, Big G lost his mother and at 16 he went to jail, shaping the man that he has become today and the way that he plays football. He said that ‘the reason why I am able to play the way I am is because of my life experiences and the fact that I don’t hide from responsibility’. ‘Football is nothing compared to life experiences. He wanted more for himself and a life outside of prison so used his pain to do something positive. He didn’t want any excuses, linking to the Longest 90 slogan, meaning that you compete regardless of your situation with no excuses as he has done with his father also passing away in League winning season, saying ‘I can’t use losing my dad as an excuse not to be successful’. This attitude accompanied by his performances on the pitch and the hard work that he’s put in on his way to 10,000 hours of his craft, having played for professional clubs and even the Nike Academy, mean that Big G has earned so much respect and is such an inspiring individual.
Anything For Paula
Don Strapzy’s mother and Mr Old Skool’s wife (Don Strapzy’s father), Paula, passed away on March 18th 2018. She was regarded as a mother to many of the Dons, including Big G since his mother passed away, highlighting how much of a loss she was.
Since then the Dons have made enormous progress and have use their ever-growing platform to share the situation. This has led to support for the family and the phrase ‘Anything For Paula’. This is often shouted at games by supporters and players alike to give an extra sense of purpose to the Dons’ mission.
In an interview with the Sun, Strapzy said that ‘in a weird way it has inspired and motivated me to go harder this year and stay consistent because that’s what she would want’. The fact that he is able to use the loss to push forward is inspiring and since her passing the Dons’ have gone from strength to strength as a business and as a football club.
Don Strapzy sharing the passing of his mother shows courage and is something that should be encouraged, seeing the effect that it has had on him. He described it as ‘therapy’. ‘I’m speaking about it, not bottling up’, meaning that Strapzy has been able to let his emotions out and use them to push on. He has also made a song called ‘Anything For Paula’ and rapped about her passing in his Kenny Allstar Freestlye on BBC Radio 1xtra, detailing his love for his mother.
The emotion shows that the Dons are a family club as they like to remind us and when watching the Dons, I feel like a part of something because they show different aspects of their characters, the losses and the wins.
The Dons are simply authentic. They don’t hide who they are and they don’t try to be something that they are not but they still have high ambitions. They want to push grassroots football further and help the local community through summer camps with Kick Up Sports and help the wider community through their inspiring work.
They encourage me to work hard while remaining true to myself. It’s ‘OK to want to be the best’ say Strapzy and ‘we’re [SE Dons] trying to give you that passion but also shows that you have morals and respect’.
Sometimes when I think of success and how to be successful, I think of drastic changes to a person and their character but the SE Dons are an example that you don’t have to change who you are. You just have to believe in something and work hard at it.
I’d like to give a special thank you to all the members of the Dons, especially unsung heroes, like Chris as the Dons wouldn’t work without him. You motivate me to stand for myself and pursue the goals in my life. So, I would agree with Don Strapzy and ‘like to believe that we’re [the Dons] not bad role models’ but fine young men.