Digi-boards running around the stadium displaying the names of the young people involved aswell as their schools and projects added to the buzzing atmosphere as teams headed out onto the pitch at the iconic stadium.
The first match kicked off with students from each of the Foundation’s eleven partner schools who fought tirelessly during a thrilling 4-4 game. 13-year-old Clayton was on the score sheet today and said, “I took a free kick and it went into the bottom corner which was good. Being on the same pitch that Rooney and Ronaldo have been on is just amazing.”
18-year-old Johnny dropped out of playing football for a semi-pro team due to the fact his learning difficulty meant he struggled to take on instruction from his coaches. He featured in the second fixture of the day involving two teams from the Foundation’s Ability Counts project with one side edging it with a 2-0 win.
Since joining the team and studying the Foundation’s BTEC Level 3 in Sport course, the 18 year old from Irlam has never looked back: “I joined the Ability Counts team in 2013 and it’s been a really enjoyable experience, I love representing Manchester United in our matches.”
He added, “Today has been great just being on the pitch, I even scored a goal. I just hit it from outside the box and it went in, right at the Stretford End!”
The third and final game involved the Foundation’s FA Girls Centre of Excellence as the U17 team took to the pitch competing against a Street Reds team made up of young people from a range of community cohesion projects across Greater Manchester.
17-year-old Alethea, captain of the U17 team and goal scorer during her team’s 2-1 win, expressed her delight at fulfilling her dream of playing at the iconic stadium; “Today was unreal; it’s something you never think you’d get the chance to do. Growing up as a United fan it’s a great honour to be on the pitch where all the greats have played.”
Students from the Foundation’s Leadership Programme were selected to officiate the games and impressed with their quick thinking and decision making. 17-year-old referee Megan from Salford is in her second year of studying the BTEC Level 3 in Sport and was ecstatic to able to lead the teams out of the tunnel, “It was huge moment to know that I was about to step onto a pitch where the likes of Giggs, Beckham and Cantona have all played. As a kid being so in love with football it was huge moment for me.”
She also explained what the Foundation meant to her and added, “Being brought up around Salford it’s not the best place to grow up, but the tutors and staff at the Foundation have helped me grow, they’ve helped me realise who I am and what I want to do in life. They’ve built up my confidence massively and I appreciated everything they have done for me.”