England Women star Casey Stoney MBE and head coach Mark Sampson were on hand to greet more than 300 girls from across Staffordshire on Friday at the FA Girls’ Football Festival in association with Continental Tyres.
Girls aged between 5 and 16 years were invited to test their skills in a range of activities combining football, fun and music. The festivals are a joint initiative by The FA and Continental Tyres, providing an exciting, interactive football experience for both those new to the game and regular players.
Stoney led a football master class, demonstrating her skills across the different activities, whilst girls tried out interactive batak boards, quickfeet and speed cages that ran alongside the 5-a-side games that took place throughout the day.
Stoney continued joining in the festivities, joining participants in the refereeing workshops before she and Mark Sampson gave the young athletes some advice on how best to advance in football and what it takes to become one of the best in your field. Answering any and all questions that the young athletes could throw at them Sampson acknowledged the fast paced development of the women’s game could only be a good thing, commenting
“We are on this journey and this path of all the hard work that has gone on for a number of years throughout the women’s game with the ultimate aim that every young girl has the opportunity to play football if they want to. We are still not quite there, but we have come a long way especially with these type of events. Having a safe, organised and friendly environment for everyone to come and enjoy football is another building block to open girl’s eyes to the chance and possibilities of playing football and what the sport can bring to them. I am absolutely delighted that the likes of Continental Tyres have come along and support these types of programmes, it makes such a difference, otherwise some girls may not get the chance to play. These type of environments open the door for the girls to experiment and have a go at playing football and with more and more girls’ clubs there are some great opportunities for girls to have a chance to play.”
Casey followed on with
“The platform that the women’s game has got now, with the international games being on TV, the WSL being on TV and the thousands of fans that are coming through the door to watch the game, is massive as it is having an impact on the next generation. Little girls that are here today are turning on their TVs and seeing us play and aspiring to play football and be the next generation of England Lionesses and if they are not the next generation of England players they are picking up a ball and playing. They have got opportunities like today, that just didn’t exist when I was younger, so it is fantastic to be here and see so many girls with a smile on their face, playing football and playing the game that I love.”
The festivals complement the work the FA is doing with their ‘We Can Play’ campaign, aiming to eradicate stereotypes, whilst retaining and increasing participation within the girls’ game. The effort and commitment of the festival sponsors were highlighted by their UK Marketing Director, Guy Forbisher:
“The FA Girls Football Festivals with Continental Tyres continues to grow year on year, giving tens of thousands of young girls from around the country the chance to get involved with the sport. At Continental Tyres we are extremely proud that 2016 is our 6th year partnering with the FA and undoubtedly is set to be the biggest and best so far. Who knows, perhaps in a few years’ time we may see a number of our festival attendees playing for their country.”