Around 80 new faces aged between 16 and 21 were introduced to football in the Thurrock region on Wednesday 23rd February during a World Cup-themed five-a-side tournament at The Gateway Academy, with even England winning some silverware!
The Gateway Academy in Marshfoot Road, Grays played host to the Essex County Football Association event linked to a wider initiative which aims to drive participation in that age group with the help of local GetIntoFootball Officer Faye Lambert. Each of the ten teams picked their country out of the draw bag and represented one of the FIFA World Cup nations.
The tournament was organised with the backing of The Football Association, Sport England, Thurrock Council, the Thurrock Association Sunday League and Mars. Tilbury Riverside Youth Centre, captained by Taylor Aldwinkle, were the overall winners who played as South Africa plus Aveley won the Fair Play Award whilst representing England.
Faye was delighted to see such promising numbers in attendance regardless of the inclement conditions, saying: “Despite the monsoon there were two leagues running on separate pitches and some of the young people brought spectators in the form of family and friends. Everybody made a real effort to get there and some of them came by bus, by train or on foot, even from as far away as Barking! The location of the venue was good and the staff were helpful.”
“This is an age group in youth football where we have identified a decline in participation and it is seen and one of my aims in Thurrock to both increase the number of young people aged 16-21 playing football and to expand the opportunities for new players to try the sport. I would like to continue introducing these and engage more young people to join in.”
She was supported on the day by Essex County FA Development Officers Nick Emery, Lana Gillard and James Lisher who helped with the general organisation, created the fixtures and assisted with the referees’ timings. Pat Cullen and four match officials from the Thurrock Referees Association also did “a fantastic job” in covering the matches.
Faye was appointed in her role just before Christmas, operating between offices at the Essex County FA and Thurrock Council and also establishing provision for females and veterans. She continued: “It’s been getting busier and busier! Now we’ve got regular sessions with Ladies ‘Get Fit Through Football’ on Tuesday nights and Men’s 35+ on Wednesdays.”
“There are ladies beginners sessions starting this week at South Essex College and supported learner sessions the week after. We’ve also got sessions starting this week at the Academy with Nacro and this tournament has allowed us to identify young people in the area, particularly those who are interested in playing but are not currently attached to affiliated teams.”
If you’d like to know more about GetIntoFootball projects and opportunities in Thurrock, phone Faye Lambert on (01245) 393099 or E-Mail email@example.com. Full details on when and where forthcoming events are taking place can also be found under ‘GetIntoFootball’ on www.essexfa.com.