Ran by the Foundation’s Primary Reds team, 114 schools across Greater Manchester were invited to take part in the Under-11 mixed and Under-11 girls categories, offering a new generation of players the chance to compete at the training ground where illustrious talents like George Best and David Beckham honed their craft.
At the national finals, taking place at Watford’s Vicarage Road in May, the winning pupils will be treated like Premier League footballers for the day. They will wear their club’s kit, visit the dressing rooms that the professionals use on matchdays, walk down the tunnel to the Premier League anthem and will be refereed by club officials.
The 2020 regional finals winners, All Saints Primary School, claimed victory for the second year in the mixed category. This will be their first appearance in the national finals, however, due to the 2020 and 2021 tournaments being cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Happy, excited and crazy” is the way that All Saints Pupil and United fan Ollie, 11, described his big day out at The Cliff, with the finals now awaiting too.
Foundation partner school, Romiley Primary School from Stockport, walked away as victors in the girls’ bracket. Emily, aged 11, said: “It’s been a great pleasure to play here [The Cliff], to play with my friends and most of all, win!”
Also thrilled at emerging victorious was her teammate Poppy-Jo: “I just love playing football and Manchester United, so to represent them at a Premier League stadium will be amazing. It will be a great experience.”
The six-a-side tournament is one of the competition elements of the PL Primary Stars programme, which inspires children in more than 15,000 primary schools across England and Wales. The aim of the programme is to create positive and lasting sporting, health and education outcomes for children, young people and the wider community.
The tournament also fell within National Schools’ Football Week, during which opportunities are provided for children to get active and enjoy being able to play sport with their school friends after so much time spent in lockdown.
The Foundation have also been marking Children’s Mental Health Week by celebrating the partnership with Manchester Mind. Anne, a Manchester Mind Outreach Worker has been attending Ability Counts sessions since November, offering support where needed to participants, their families and members of staff.
The fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic continues to place hardship on many families in our region, but Anne has developed positive relationships and gained their trust helping them openly discuss difficult situations. The partnership with Manchester Mind also signposts participants to local wellbeing services and has helped to provide vital provision.
In addition, Manchester Mind have trained Foundation staff, helping them to recognise mental health concerns in the young people they work with and equipping them with the skills needed to offer support.
The Foundation has a number of wellbeing resources for young people on its website, and if this is something you are struggling with, please visit manchestermind.org where you can find help and advice.