Over 320 girls from 33 clubs across the country attended the FA Girls' Football Festival at Wembley Powerleague on Sunday 23 November, before heading inside the stadium to cheer on the Lionesses against Germany.
The players have all started playing football in the past year through the FA’s Women’s and Girls’ Programme, which is run in partnership with Sport England, the Premier League and the Football League Trust. Exeter City FITC coach Neville Watts took a group of girls who have taken up the game through our Female Football Development sessions to represent Exeter City at the festival, which was the last in the 2014 series of FA Girls’ Football Festivals, run in partnership with Continental Tyres to encourage more girls to try out football. More than 8,000 girls, aged between 5 and 16, have taken part in the festivals in 2014.
"It was an absolutely brilliant day," Neville said. "Even though it absolutely bucketed down, the girls had the most fantastic time. It's great for them to see that there is this huge level of support for the girls' game from all areas of its administration - and I was really proud of how well they played. Hopefully they will now go back and spread the word to their friends that football is a game for everyone, whether you're just playing for fun and fitness or aiming for Wembley!"
All of the participating U16 teams were specially invited by the Premier League and Football League Trust to take part in a special five-a-side tournament. Each of the clubs invited to the festival have all delivered sessions as part of the scheme, which has welcomed almost 21,000 young women into football since October 2013.
The players were also joined by the injured England and Notts County Ladies player, Sophie Bradley, who took part in all of the activities on offer, including a question and answer session, giving the girls an insight into what it’s like to play for England and Notts County in the FA WSL.
The format of the day combined football, lifestyle and music. FA approved coaches led the festival, and there were a host of activities on offer inbetween matches. These ranged from skills and drills to interactive games (target shoot, speed cage, batak boards)
Refereeing ambassadors Brittany Smith and Natasha Wilson delivered a refereeing workshop, while girls also had the chance to pose with the Barclays Premier League trophy.
We're really proud of our FFD programme and we hope all our participants are too!