Through our partnership with the national FAs, we’re proud to have created millions of opportunities for children to participate in grassroots football programmes across England, Scotland and Wales. Whether they’re new to the game or already have their sights set on a place on their national team, our sessions cover core skills as well as encouraging teamwork, friendship and healthy lifestyles – invaluable both on and off the pitch. Read on to meet some of the people whose lives have been touched by grassroots football.
Despite having rugby playing brothers, Oscar lives and breathes football: ‘it’s the sport I love best!’ He was excited to join the sessions and learn new things to practise at home. ‘I’ve got a net in my back garden,’ he says. ‘But it’s broken because my shots are too hard.’ Nominated by his coaches, Oscar won the chance to meet his football hero, Kyle Walker, and train together.
The experience was a dream come true for Oscar, and for Kyle Walker it was a reminder of how his own dreams to be an England footballer began. Watch our video to find out more about Kyle's journey to becoming one of the country's favourite sports stars.
England Manager Gareth Southgate is passionate about grassroots football and giving young children access to proper coaching: ‘5–11 is the key age for learning new skills. If kids can learn those skills at this age, they’ll have them for life.' These fundamental skills are not the only benefits of instilling a love of the game at a young age either. 'Children's football for me is all about fun,' he says. 'It's about interacting with your friends, communication, teamwork and promoting a healthy lifestyle.'
the role models
Alongside learning skills and techniques, it's just as important for young football players to have mentors and role models to look up to who share their passion for the game. When Gill’s daughter, Olivia, started playing football she realised how few opportunities there were for girls in the local area. Seeking to change that, she entered – and won – the Lidl Ultimate Football Parent competition and began training to be a coach: ‘I was the only woman on the course with about fifteen men!’. She now runs regular training sessions and hopes to encourage more girls to take up the sport. ‘There’s a lot of focus on women’s football now,’ she says. ‘I want to give these girls a chance.’
We’re proud to have girls’ participation increase by over 200% since our partnership began. Providing opportunities like these to children who might not otherwise get to play is important, as Scotland goalkeeper Lee Alexander noted during her visit to a Skills Centre on International Womens’ Day. ‘I never had anything like this,’ she says. ‘To give girls the chance to get involved like this is great for the future of women’s football.’ She herself is thrilled at the increase in awareness of women’s football: ‘When I was young I looked up to David Beckham so it’s fantastic for girls to have female role models.’