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Wednesday, 09 March 2016 17:49

Watch: Fairmuir BC v Montrose Youth U14

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Highlights from the Dundee West Anniversary Cup semi final.
 
Neymar, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The final shortlist for 2015’s Ballon d’Or and in many eyes the best three footballers on the planet. For most it came as no surprise when Lionel Messi won a recorded breaking fifth award in seven years. It was also the eighth consecutive year that either the Argentine or Real Madrid forward Ronaldo have won football's most coveted individual award.
 
But there is something that links these three players, not just with each other, but with many other legends of the game both past and present. Legends such as Xavi and Iniesta, Ronaldinho and Kaka, and even the greatest of them all, Pele, all began their love of football not on the pitch, but on the court.
 
“In futsal, you see whether a player is really talented. In normal football you don't necessarily identify talent as easily because it's so much more physical. But with Futsal, you notice the small details in quality, class and tactical understanding." Those were the words of former Spain and Barcelona midfielder Xavi during the 2012 Futsal world cup in Thailand, and the rise of football's baby brother is now sweeping through Scotland.
 
A variant of standard association football, Futsal is a five-a-side game played mainly indoors with a smaller, heavier ball. Unlimited substitutions are allowed, and the games smaller pitches and higher tempo create an emphasis on improvisation, creativity and technique as well as ball control and passing in small spaces.
 
In 2015, Russell Taylor founded ‘Futsal Escocia’ in Fife, Scotland’s first ever Futsal league for youngsters, after being inspired by similar events on TV where many of the game’s greatest players continue to dazzle, and this weekend saw the climax of a ground breaking debut season.
 
Following initial coaching sessions at Inverkeithing last January, interest in Futsal quickly spread. One session a week became three, before other venues in Dunfermline and Cowdenbeath had to be set up to cope with demand.
 
Despite the success of those initial sessions, Russell was keen to get competitive game time for the players, and in 2015 a summer tournament was arranged. "We ran a tournament just through the summer break, at '04 and '05 level, and all the teams that participated in it loved it, and all the teams that participated in it then signed up for the winter league."
 
The Winter League has been an even bigger event, and culminated this weekend at Beath High School. As well as sides from the summer event, Russell was able to gain support from teams all across Fife, and in total over the three months fifty teams have competed against each other, with the league running from November through to this weekend, with teams from '04, '05, '06 and '07 levels all taking part.
 
The popularity of the sport is not surprising, with the games adjusted rules encouraging more free flowing passages of play, and with less interruptions the intensity levels are kept consistently high. The games requirement for a more technical, less physical style is something Russell is keen to point out. "
 
Futsal is a little bit different in that you’re not reliant on the physical aspect of it, you’ll be lucky if there were five fouls in whole day today, so it’s more a technical element…the benefits of it are control and game awareness, you’ve got to be a lot sharper… Some players are good on the ball but in Futsal, if you’re not good off the ball as well, you get punished."
 
Russell is all too aware of Futsal’s unseen and perhaps under-appreciated influence on the modern professional game, and points to the fact that eight players from the current FIFPRO World Eleven began their careers playing Futsal.
 
"Certainly at seven-a-side the kids that excel are powerful, strong and pacey, and can kick the ball harder… But when they get bigger that’s taken away. There’s not as much space to run into when there’s eleven players on the pitch, and the ones that are maybe more technically gifted at Futsal will probably find that they are the better players when they’re older, but at the moment are probably overlooked at academies because they’re on a bigger pitch."
 
The claim that Futsal teaches increased technique, control and game awareness certainly carries some weight. For decades now the sport has been much loved in South America and Sothern Europe, and a quick look back over the nationalities of Ballon d’Or winners for the last twenty years will show you that fifteen of those twenty winners were from either South America or Southern Europe.
 
Given the games influence on young players, and following on from the success of Futsal Escocia’s ground breaking first year, Russell is now keen to expand the programme, starting with another tournament pencilled in for this summer, and an expanded Winter League to follow.
 
"What we’ll probably do is run it over two days in the summer, with groups playing on Saturday and then the winners of those groups playing each other on the Sunday… We had fifty teams this year and hopefully, with interest is high as this we could reach seventy teams for the league next year."
 
With one hundred players from teams all across Fife already on the books at the weekly Futsal Escocia coaching sessions, Russell is also looking to build competitive teams at '04, '05, '06 and '07 levels to play in the newly formed Scottish Youth Futsal Federation, which will involve playing against teams from all across Scotland, and is testament to the sports rising popularity.
 
And for anyone who remains unconvinced by Futsal’s potential to improve development and sharpen your game awareness, you need look no further than the current best in the business. “As a little boy in Argentina, I played futsal on the streets and for my club. It was tremendous fun and it really helped me become who I am today" – Lionel Messi, record breaking five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
 
Players and coaches can get involved in Futsal through their local club, or through the Futsal Escocia website and Facebook page.
Tuesday, 08 March 2016 00:00

Scone Thistle announce girls expansion

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Summary
- Score Thistle Girls are expanding for the new season with an U9’s, U11’s, and U13’s set-up.
- Former player Becky Cameron and Scotland women’s international Rachel Corsie were both in attendance for the launch.
- Derek Adam says the move is important to ensure girls keep playing the sport and don’t stop all together.
 
For the past five seasons, Scone Thistle of Perth and Kinross have been running an under-11s girls team. On 31st January, they announced their expansion down to under-9's and up to under-13's during a snowy taster session in Perth. 
 
Derek Adam, co-chairman of Community Club, commented on the struggles that the Jaggies had when they originally set up.
 
“The original group of girls played at U11, but a number of players became too old to participate at that age level at the same time,” said Adam. “With some of the girls being as young as 8 the step up to U13 would have been too much for them so it was decided that the team would keep playing at U11.”
 
“Increasing the number of girls participating has been one of the aims of the community club and with the present team having a range of ages we are keen to avoid a repeat of girls having to go elsewhere to play, or worse, stopping playing altogether.”
 
Former Scone Thistle goalkeeper Becky Cameron, now of Dundee United and Scotland under-16's, was one of those players the Jaggies lost out to due to a lack of teams available for her at that age group. “I loved playing for Scone Thistle,” said Cameron, “but I had to move on when the team folded. Lots of the girls became more interested in make-up and other things, so it’s great to see so many young girls playing in Scone.”
 
The Scone Thistle girls were further boosted by the presence of veteran Scotland women’s international Rachel Corsie. Currently playing for Seattle Reign in the United States, she was present at Scone to oversee the enthusiastic girls taking part in the growing sport of football. “It is very cold but they don't care,” said Corsie. “Their enthusiasm is great. The younger they start the better.”
 
She added: “Learning the key skills is something that you really need to start as early as possible. Seeing these girls, some of them as young as five and six, having fun and learning so much is fantastic. It is a great opportunity for them.”
 
Summary
- Christina Murray made her debut for Raith Rovers Girls U9’s this year.
- Despite being profoundly deaf, Christina is loving her football with Raith Rovers.
- Even with the issues being deaf can bring, Christina and her parents are hopeful she’ll make the Ladies team and maybe even the National team one day.
 
Imagine playing football without being able to hear any shouts from your team mates or not being able to hear the referee’s whistle. That’s exactly the case for Christina Murray who plays with Raith Rovers Ladies and Girls U9’s.
 
Christina is profoundly deaf and wears cochlear implants. Despite this, Christina’s love and enthusiasm for the game is allowing her to follow her aspiration of playing football.
 
Christina’s dad, Christian said, “Christina became interested in football when her two sisters started to play for Raith Rovers Ladies and Girls last April. She would kick the ball about in the back garden with them. 
 
“Christina joined Raith Rovers Ladies and Girls training sessions in November and in the same month, she started training with Raith Rovers Community who held a trial session for deaf children.”
 
As noted though, being profoundly deaf causes some difficulties. “Christina faces many difficulties on the football pitch” said Christian. “The basic things that many footballers take for granted like a shout from a team mate or even the whistle. 
 
“The weather can cause all sorts of problems. The wind can make it difficult for instructions to be heard as it carries the sound. If it rains, Christina would need to remove her cochlear implants as they are not waterproof. This leads to Christina having no hearing at all which effects all aspects of the game including those mentioned previously and her awareness of players around her. 
 
“This also continues in training. The coaches’ instructions have to be shown visually as well as said orally as Christina has difficulty processing the spoken word and understanding.”
 
As expected, these difficulties can cause issues, as Christian explains. “It does effect Christina’s performance especially if she fails to understand or follow an instruction, but this does not stop her enthusiasm for the game" he said. "Christina perseveres and never seems to get frustrated. 
 
“Christina’s team mates know of her disability and offer great support during training sessions. They show great patience when she gets things wrong or is unsure of things and help her greatly. They know communication is difficult for Christina and they try to support as best as they can, which is a major relief for us as parents as it can be socially difficult for Christina or any child with a hearing loss.”
 
It’s her perseverance and support from the team and club that allowed Christina to make her debut for the team last Saturday. “She was excited as soon as she got up and wanted to go to the game about two hours before she should have been there” said Christian. “Thankfully the weather was dry so she was able to wear her cochlear implants. Christina has a great energy and runs non-stop all the time. 
 
“She played with a massive smile on her face for the three games and when she scored, the excitement was doubled. Christina couldn’t wait to get home to tell her mum and family that she scored.
 
“Christina loves training and playing for Raith Rovers Ladies and Girls. If she could, she would train and play every day. The club are brilliant with Christina, as they are with all their girls.”
 
Looking to the future, Christina and her family are hopeful of a number of things. “Christina is at a stage where her aspirations is to play football” said Christian. “As long as she can kick a ball and score a goal, Christina is happy.
 
“For her Mum and me, we would like to see Christina progress through the club at all the levels and make the Ladies team. Who knows, maybe even play for her country.
 
"That would be a major inspiration for the deaf community. To see a child with a hearing loss make great progress and showing that despite all the obstacles in the way, you can progress and achieve with a hearing loss."
 
Friday, 05 February 2016 12:53

Scone Thistle announce girls expansion

Written by
For the past five seasons, Scone Thistle of Perth and Kinross have been running and under-11s girls team. On 31st January, they announced their expansion down to under-9's and up to under-13's during a snowy taster session in Perth. 
 
Derek Adam, co-chairman of Community Club, commented on the struggles that the Jaggies had when they originally set up.
 
“The original group of girls played at U11 but a number of players became too old to participate at that age level at the same time,” said Adam. “With some of the girls being as young as 8 the step up to U13 would have been too much for them so it was decided that the team would keep playing at U11.”
 
“Increasing the number of girls participating has been one of the aims of the community club and with the present team having a range of ages we are keen to avoid a repeat of girls having to go elsewhere to play or worse, stopping playing altogether.”
 
Former Scone Thistle goalkeeper Becky Cameron, now of Dundee United and Scotland under-16's, was one of those players the Jaggies lost out to due to a lack of teams available for her at that age group. “I loved playing for Scone Thistle,” said Cameron, “but I had to move on when the team folded. Lots of the girls became more interested in make-up and other things, so it’s great to see so many young girls playing in Scone.”
 
The Scone Thistle girls were boosted furthermore by the presence of veteran Scotland women’s international Rachel Corsie. Currently playing for Seattle Reign in the United States, she was present at Scone to oversee the enthusiastic girls taking part in the growing sport of football. “It is very cold but they don't care,” stated Corsie. “Their enthusiasm is great. The younger they start the better.”
 
She added that “learning the key skills is something that you really need to start as early as possible. Seeing these girls, some of them as young as 5 and 6, having fun and learning so much is fantastic. It is a great opportunity for them.”
The Jamie Skinner Foundation has celebrated the installation of life-saving defibrillators in Edinburgh schools as it continues its work protecting the health of young sporting talent.
 
The award-winning Foundation is named after tragic young Tynecastle FC footballer Jamie Skinner, who passed away in December 2013 at the age of just 13 years-old, while playing his beloved beautiful game. Youth Football Scotland's annual Goal of the Season award is also named in his honour.
 
Friends and family of the Liberton High pupil believe that his sudden collapse after suffering a cardiac arrest at Saughton Sports Complex, although unpredictable, might not have been lethal, and his young life saved, if a nearby defibrillator had been used.
 
The Foundation hopes to raise awareness of issues surrounding sport and health to try and avoid another tragedy. 
 
More than 1,500 Scots died after suffering a cardiac arrest in 2013 alone. Immediate provision of CPR and the use of a defibrillator within five minutes, however, can increase survival rates to nearly 75%.
 
Now the Scottish Government and Edinburgh City Council have joined forces to provide funds for defibrillators to be purchased for and fitted in the capital's Gracemount High School and Holyrood High School. The Jamie Skinner Foundation, which has itself raised over £40,000 to provide defibrillators to sports clubs across the Lothian region, welcomed the news online this weekend. 
 
Edinburgh's local authority leaders have pledged to provide sufficient funding to ensure every high school in the city has such a life-saver. In addition, the Scottish Government's £100,000 cardiac arrest strategy, launched in March 2015, is the first of its kind globally and aims to save more than 1,000 lives by 2020.
 
One of the biggest footballing tournaments in the world will be taking place this summer. Not the World Cup, but in fact the Norway Cup, where each year since 1972 between 1,400 and 1,700 teams compete against each other from ages 10-19, boys and girls.
 
Since 1972, nearly 50,000 teams from countries all over the world have competed in the annual tournament held at the Ekebergsletta field in Oslo. Being based in Norway, the majority of teams competing are Norwegian, however clubs from all across the globe are invited each year to take part.
 
21 teams from Scotland will fly the Saltire at the 2016 Norwegian Cup. Longdniddry Villa FC are one of those teams. They will be sending a boys 2001's team to Oslo in the summer. “It will be great to play against teams from all over the world as we've only ever played teams from Scotland,” says goalkeeper Cameron Sanderland.
 
Linlithgow Rose will not only be competing in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup, they will be sending a girls under-17's team to the prestigious Norwegian Cup this summer. They will be the oldest team to represent Scotland at the tournament. “It sounds really exciting,” according to player Rihanna Kennedy. “We went to Sweden in the summer [2015] and that was really enjoyable.”
 
Bayside FC are another one of Scotland's representatives at this years Norway Cup. They are sending a girls under-13 squad to Oslo in July. “When I was told I was in Spain,” according to one of the players Niamh, “so I was really excited to go on another trip abroad.” She added that it will “be a step forward from just playing teams in Scotland.”
 
The Norway Cup will be another huge success in 2016, aided by the inclusion of so many Scottish teams. For the young Scottish footballers of the future, to play against teams from all over the world, it will be an experience they will never forget and will improve their performances ten-fold.
 
 
Thursday, 28 January 2016 12:32

As the Saints go marching on

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St. Johnstone have been enjoying quite modest success in recent years. In 2014, they won the Scottish Cup for the first time beating Dundee United 2-0. They also finished fourth in the Scottish Premiership last season and have competed in the UEFA Europa League for the last four seasons on the bounce.
 
In addition to their senior success, St. Johnstone's youth development squad have been working a treat over the past few years. Currently, fifth in the SPFL Development League, they are also competing in the Little Big Shot Youth Cup. On 14 January, they earned a surprise victory over reigning cup champions Celtic, defeating them 2-1 in a closely contested fourth round tie, followed by a 2-1 victory over Rangers in the Development League this Tuesday. The young Perth Saints are set to face Motherwell in the quarter-finals of the cup with a date to be confirmed.
 
After their shock victory in the cup over Celtic adding to their resurgence in form, St. Johnstone go into their quarter-final fixture as strong candidates to win the cup, which striker Bradley Sinclair says the squad are delighted about. “It was a great feeling beating the favourites for the cup,” said Sinclair. “We now have the next round of the cup to look forward to which all the boys are buzzing for and of course the rest of the league campaign.” 
 
Manager Alec Cleland spoke highly of the team effort put in by the squad against the fearsome Celtic. “It was always gonna be a team effort against Celtic and that's what it turned out to be” said Cleland. He also commended playing four attackers stating that “we've always played that way this season. Two strikers and two wide attackers and that's the way we've won most games at the start of the season."
 
Special praise was reserved for match winner George Hunter who Cleland stated “put a great shift in.” Hunter himself was delighted with the result and his two goals. “It was a great team performance from the boys and I'm buzzing to get the two goals,” said Hunter. His 20-yard strike that levelled the game was special. “I can't really remember the first goal,” Hunter claimed. “I got it at my feet and just hit it and it went in."
 
Kyle Lander also earned praise from manager Alec Cleland and in particular George Hunter. “Kyle is my best mate. Our link up play is brilliant and we always know what each other are doing”.
 
In their first four games of 2016, St. Johnstone having won three of them. With the form the boys are showing at the moment, they will be a tough team to break down going into the latter half of the season.

 
Fixture: Kirkcaldy High School v Bell Baxter High School U16
Competition: Fife Cup - Semi Final
Venue: Kirkcaldy High School
Date: Tuesday 26th January 2016
 
Kirkcaldy High School progressed to the Fife Cup final after beating Bell Baxter High School on a stormy Tuesday afternoon in Kirkcaldy. With a final place up for grabs, neither team were holding back as a thrilling game was on show to warm up the frozen spectators.

The first significant chance of the game came early in the first half. BBHS won the ball in the centre circle after great work from Scott Petrie, however he then conceded possession cheaply and this allowed Kirkcaldy to burst forward and open the scoring. 

The Kirkcaldy side were defending well up until this point, and goalkeeper was rarely tested but was up to the task when called upon. However, he couldn't stop BBHS from equalising soon after as Steven Smith latched onto a long crossfield pass to finish well into the bottom corner.

BBHS were almost behind again though as pinball occurred on the edge of their box and the ball eventually bounced into the path of the Kirkcaldy striker. He looked destined to score, but for the goal-saving tackle of the BBHS defender. The scores were still level pegging.

With half time only around 10 minutes away, Kirkcaldy were awarded a penalty kick and handed the chance to get back in front. BBHS keeper Craig Burt stood tall and saved the well struck penalty, keeping the scores level.

From a Kirkcaldy corner, BBHS got themselves ahead in the game as they broke upfield in a pulsating counter attack, lead by Jonjay Reid. He finished off the superb move with a powerful shot that tickled the bottom corner of the goal.

With seconds remaining of the first half, BBHS extended their lead thanks to an unfortunate own goal from the Kirkcaldy goalkeeper.

Half Time: Kirkcaldy High School 1-3 Bell Baxter High School

BBHS looked to be very comfortable with their two goal advantage as they kept possession well at the beginning of the second half. However, things were about to change as Kirkcaldy really turned it on in the second period. Ten minutes into the half and the deficit was reduced and the score now at 3-2.

KHS showed strong tactics in the second half with a further four goals scored. Their defence managed to keep it tight at the back and kill any attacks BBHS were trying to launch. Kirkcaldy simply overran the BBHS boys and deservedly booked their place in the final of the Fife Cup. 

BBHS seemed to run out of steam in the second half as Kirkcaldy ran riot. A terrific comeback from Kirkcaldy nonetheless. Had BBHS managed to get a goal in the second half, it could of been a whole different story.

Full Time: Kirkcaldy High School 6-3 Bell Baxter High School

 
 
Imagine playing football but without being able to hear any shouts from your team mates or not being able to hear the referee’s whistle. That’s exactly the case for Christina Murray who plays with Raith Rovers Ladies and Girls U9’s.
 
Christina is profoundly deaf and wears cochlear implants. Despite this, Christina’s love and enthusiasm for the game is allowing her to follow her aspiration of playing football.
 
Christina’s dad, Christian said, “Christina became interested in football when her two sisters started to play for Raith Rovers Ladies and Girls last April. She would kick the ball about in the back garden with them. 
 
“Christina joined Raith Rovers Ladies and Girls training sessions in November and in the same month, she started training with Raith Rovers Community who held a trial session for deaf children.”
 
As noted though, being profoundly deaf causes some difficulties. “Christina faces many difficulties on the football pitch” said Christian. “The basic things that many footballers take for granted like a shout from a team mate or even the whistle. 
 
“The weather can cause all sorts of problems. The wind can make it difficult for instructions to be heard as it carries the sound. If it rains, Christina would need to remove her cochlear implants as they are not waterproof. This leads to Christina having no hearing at all which effects all aspects of the game including those mentioned previously and her awareness of players around her. 
 
“This also continues in training. The coaches’ instructions have to be shown visually as well as said orally as Christina has difficulty processing the spoken word and understanding.”
 
As expected, these difficulties can cause issues, as Christian explains. “It does effect Christina’s performance especially if she fails to understand or follow an instruction, but this does not stop her enthusiasm for the game" he said. "Christina perseveres and never seems to get frustrated. 
 
“Christina’s team mates know of her disability and offer great support during training sessions. They show great patience when she gets things wrong or is unsure of things and help her greatly. They know communication is difficult for Christina and they try to support as best as they can, which is a major relief for us as parents as it can be socially difficult for Christina or any child with a hearing loss.”
 
It’s her perseverance and support from the team and club that allowed Christina to make her debut for the team last Saturday. “She was excited as soon as she got up and wanted to go to the game about two hours before she should have been there” said Christian. “Thankfully the weather was dry so she was able to wear her Cochlear Implants. Christina has a great energy and runs non-stop all the time. 
 
“She played with a massive smile on her face for the three games and when she scored, the excitement was doubled. Christina couldn’t wait to get home to tell her mum and family that she scored.”
 
“Christina loves training and playing for Raith Rovers Ladies and Girls. If she could, she would train and play every day. The club are brilliant with Christina as they are with all their girls.”
 
Looking to the future, Christina and her family are hopeful of a number of things. “Christina is at a stage where her aspirations is to play football” said Christian. “As long as she can kick a ball and score a goal, Christina is happy.
 
“For her Mum and me, we would like to see Christina progress through the club at all the levels and make the Ladies team. Who knows, maybe even play for her country.
 
"That would be a major inspiration for the deaf community. To see a child with a hearing loss make great progress and showing that despite all the obstacles in the way, you can progress and achieve with a hearing loss."