A 15-year-old boy, described as a talented footballer, Joel Adesina, died 2am on Saturday morning at a London hospital after being knifed in the stomach about three hours earlier.
His family said they had taken comfort from tributes paid by friends and his football coach, who described him as a talented “workhorse” who “gave 100 per cent”.
Joel’s aunt, who wished not to be named, told the Standard: “We are still in shock. It is just still very distressing to know that this has happened.
“We are grateful for and appreciate everyone’s concern.”
Friends told how Joel, who lived in Dagenham, was a talented winger who had been scouted by a number of professional clubs. He began playing seriously in the summer in an effort to “better” himself.
Ricky Downes, 54, manager of his team Bardag FC Yellows, said: “He was always dedicated, always worked hard and always gave 100 per cent. He was as good as gold. There was just something about him that touched people.
“As a player you could see his quality straight away. He was fast and he could be fast with the ball. He was a natural — the sky was the limit.”
He added: “My message to the boys carrying any weapons is to put them down and just pick up a racket or a ball or get into sport because there is too much of this.
“If anyone wants to come and kick a ball with us, then they can come and join us.”
About 30 boys from the club’s teams held a vigil at their home ground in Valence Park, Dagenham, yesterday as flowers were laid in the centre circle.
Police say Joel was walking with friends near Bethnal Green Road when they got into an argument just after 11pm with a group in a parked car.
The group were pursued into Padbury Court where neighbours heard “screaming and shouting”. Joel was cornered in Gibraltar Walk and stabbed.
Birkan Akepe, 29, who works at Ekol Food Centre, said: “Two boys came in with their friend who was badly hurt. He was bleeding for about 15 minutes in the shop.
“They asked for something for the blood and I gave them tissues. Then he fell on the floor.”
Joel is the 11th teenager to be murdered in London this year.
Flowers have been laid outside the teenager’s home in Dagenham.
A neighbour said: “Joel was a polite, well-mannered young boy. He was never abrupt.
“I can’t describe how this feels, it’s like an atomic bomb has gone off.”
A 22-year-old woman is being questioned by the police in connection to Joel’s murder.