In celebration of UEFA Grassroots week between Saturday the 10th of September and Saturday the 17th of September 2016, the Scottish Football Association have organised a number of events throughout Scotland. Aberdeen’s Northfield Academy hosted a girls’ football festival on Wednesday the 13th of September, with over 300 girls participating from around Aberdeen. YFS caught up with Jo Murphy, one of the event organisers, to find out more.
Murphy organised the event, as part of the FIFA ‘Live Your Goals Festival’, on behalf of the Scottish FA. She said, “This is a worldwide programme. We’re trying to get more girls involved in the sport and we’re hoping to get over 1000 girls playing football through the festivals. This is the first one that we’ve had in Aberdeen this year and we have around 330 girls coming throughout the day. Hopefully this will give them a taste of what football is about and they will want to continue playing.”
The day was split into two sessions, with around 150 girls attending the morning session from five different primary schools, and around 190 girls attending the afternoon session from five more primary schools. All of the girls were welcomed with high fives by enthusiastic coaches who created a positive environment and fun activities for their day. Northfield Academy’s all-weather pitch was split into two halves: one providing numerous mini pitches for four-aside matches, while the other half had five different coaching stations set up to work on various skills, including dribbling, passing, and spatial awareness.
Murphy said, “For most of the girls, it will be their first time playing four-aside matches. The coaching stations mainly focused on dribbling, a bit of passing and some relay races as well. It was an all-round mix of the basics.”
Four players from Aberdeen FC Ladies were in attendance at the event. They got involved in some of the four-aside games as well as doing question and answer sessions with the children. Murphy said, “The four girls that came along are good role models for the young kids. They can share their experiences. Just seeing other girls playing football and older women, I think that inspires them to get involved, especially with the ladies wearing their Aberdeen tracksuits as well. Some of the girls might go along and watch some of their games, and get involved themselves.”
The festival in Aberdeen is only one of a number that have been arranged up and down the country. Murphy said, “We’ve had six events in each of the six regions that the SYFA operate in. In this region, we’ve targeted the Primary three and four age-group because that was what the local club wanted but last year we did one for Academy girls to try and get them into the sport as well. Across Scotland, we’ve probably had around 1200 girls participate in the programme so far.”
Local club, North Star Community Football Club, started a girls’ section last season and Murphy is hopeful that events like the festival will encourage girls to participate in football. She said, “We want to build the pathway for clubs like North Star so that girls can come in at five years old and stay until they are fifteen or sixteen. Hopefully the girls will want to come and play for clubs like North Star, or come to some of the other community trust activities that we have. Ultimately, we just want more girls playing football and hopefully events like this will encourage them to do just that.”
It is fantastic to see such positive events taking place in the North region. With so many creative activities and the enthusiasm of the coaches involved, many girls are sure to be inspired to get more involved in playing football.