The event proved to be a huge success and attracted around 200 players from FA Girls’ Centres of Excellences across the North West and local grassroots teams. Also in attendance was United Legend Denis Irwin, who was impressed with the level of talent on display:
“I can’t believe how good they are. The standard is excellent; it shows that girls’ football is on the up. You can tell that skill levels are improving and it’s just great to see young girls come out here, play football and enjoy themselves.”
Following the tournament, Denis was on hand to present the local junior clubs with free football kits in association with the Premier League Players’ Kit Scheme. The seven grassroots teams in attendance had been nominated by Manchester United to benefit from the scheme, which saw thousands of clubs, schools and youth organisations across England and Wales apply for new kit paid for by a £500,000 donation from players in each Premier League squad.
After posing with the kit, nine-year-old Millie Davies, who plays for Moorside Rangers in Salford, commented, “Today has been really good. Playing with Manchester United is fun; they teach you good skills to make you a better footballer. I love football, it’s my favourite sport.”
Another highlight of the day was the Under 9s tournament, which included teams from Everton, Liverpool, Blackburn and Stoke City and was followed by skill zones and a demonstration from The FA Girls Football Festival.
Ten-year-old Beth Smyth has been playing for the Manchester United Girls’ Centre of Excellence for four years and commented, “The thing I enjoy the most about playing for United is winning matches.”
Teammate Aliza Angus added, “My favourite thing about being here today is that we get to play football and have fun because if we were at home we wouldn’t be able to do this.”
The afternoon was rounded off by Manchester United’s under 17s National Cup third round fixture against Aston Villa at Ayrshire Road, which offered spectators the chance to see a competitive game in action.
With football now the number one female team participation sport in England, the aim of the festival was to provide as many girls as possible with, first and foremost, a fun experience but also hopefully ignite an interest in the game that they will be able to develop through their local schools, clubs and County FAs.