Young people from across Greater Manchester visited Old Trafford this week to mark the celebration of 50 days until the London 2012 Olympics Games kick off.
The lucky boys and girls, who have all been selected for the unique opportunity of assisting as ball persons during the Olympic football events, visited the North West’s only Olympic venue and had their photos taken by the side of the pitch.
The 13-15 year-old youngsters who have been chosen for this exciting role attend various Manchester United Foundation projects and have been individually picked by their teachers and coaches for their positive attitude, dedication and good behaviour.
13 year-old Alethea Paul, from Whalley Range in Manchester, plays for the Foundation’s Girls Centre of Excellence:
“I was selected to be a ball girl because I play for Manchester United girls at the moment,” explained Alethea. “I’m really excited and I’m looking forward to seeing the GB women’s team playing so I can learn from their game and become a better footballer. It’s really good for younger generations to be a part of an event like the Olympics – it’s something we will always remember.”
As well as the girls’ teams, many of the youngsters are students at the Manchester United Foundation’s partner schools or attend Community Cohesion sessions, put on by Foundation coaches in the evenings.
Some of them have already had some practise at their duties as they took on the role as ball person throughout the season at Old Trafford.
Joe Higgins, 15, from Marple said: “I was nominated to be a ball boy through my school. It was a reward for good behaviour and performing well in PE. I helped at all the Manchester United games last season and I’ve made some really good friends. It was pretty scary to start with but it turned out really good and now I can’t wait for the Olympics. I don’t really know what to expect but it feels good to be part of something that big.”
Sam Sollinger, 15, from Salford, also explained why it is so special for him to be part of the Olympics: “I was a ball boy this season for Manchester United’s games at Old Trafford, but at the Olympics it’s going to get even better because there are players coming from all over the world and we are going to get the chance to see them in person rather than on the television. The Olympics is a rare event that happens where everyone gets together all around the world and it’s just huge for us to be part of that.”
Foundation chief executive John Shiels added: “We were so proud to be able to give the youngsters that we work with this opportunity. They have all earned the right to be part of the Olympics by doing their own personal best either at school or at our projects. When the rest of the world is coming to England, it is fantastic that local kids have the opportunity to experience a once in a lifetime event that they will remember for the rest of their lives.”
The Old Trafford Olympic matches will kick off on Thursday 26th July with UAE vs Uruguay and Team GB vs Senegal in the men’s competition. As well as welcoming teams such as Spain and Brazil, Manchester will also host the men’s and women’s semi-finals.