adidas Football Collective hosted the event as part of their aim to open up the game to everyone and use football as the driving force for change in local communities.
Following the recent work done by the Foundation around mental health and wellbeing awareness, the day’s events revolved around three key wellbeing themes: Be Active, Be Kind and Present, and Be Curious. There was also a strong emphasis on employability, with many of the participants currently studying at college and looking forward to the next steps in their lives.
The young people were selected for this amazing opportunity from Foundation partner schools and projects, such as the BTEC Sport course at Eccles Sixth Form College and Girls’ Regional Talent Club. After an incredibly tough year, the day served as a reward following their achievements on and off the pitch.
Having arrived at the stadium, participants were given breakfast in Old Trafford’s No. 7 suite before following in the footsteps of the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford by walking down the players’ tunnel and onto the hallowed turf.
As part of the ‘Be Active’ section of the day, groups enjoyed football sessions led by Foundation coaches before being joined by United legends Wes Brown and Denis Irwin for penalty shootouts and matches, with participants relishing the chance to score in front of the Stretford End.
“It’s brilliant for them, it really is,” Denis said. “This is going to be a day that they’ll never forget and I was impressed by some of the talent out there. With the wellbeing and employability workshops also going on it’s made for a really good and educational day, which is very important. Well done to the Foundation and adidas for putting this on.”
“It’s always great doing Foundation work and days like this are what it’s all about,” Wes added. “For the young people coming down today, having a look around the changing rooms and getting out on the pitch – what an amazing experience.”
In between the football sessions, participants ventured to the first-team changing room, enjoying a wellbeing session led by ex-British Army officer turned mindfulness teacher James Donaldson, who helped the participants to focus on ‘Being Kind and Present’ using relaxation and mindfulness techniques.
An employability workshop was also attended, prompting the young people to ‘Be Curious’ and explore potential future employment paths. Here, adidas’ global talent acquisition manager Marcell Edwards gave an insight into how adidas operates as a business, an overview of different roles at the company as well as advice on preparing for an interview and the importance of social media in the world of employment.
Rob Martin, employability and skills manager for Manchester United Foundation, said: “Both of the workshops were extremely beneficial for everyone who attended today. Hearing from engaging speakers like James and Marcell was really insightful for our students and it’s clear that they’ve come away with some valuable wellbeing tips and a clearer idea of the many roles that they could aspire towards at a global brand like adidas.
“Factoring in the time they spent playing out on the on the pitch with a couple of United legends, it really has been a very special day for them.”
Alfie, a student on the BTEC Sport programme, said: “Being here today with Manchester United Foundation, with my friends, is just unreal! There’s not many people who can say they have played on the Old Trafford pitch and I want to thank the Foundation and adidas for the opportunity.”