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Primary schools in north west Essex brought the curtain down on the first ever Harlow Central Venue League on consecutive Tuesdays in June, with a total of almost 100 year two boys and girls enjoying their first experiences of training and 4v4 matches during four meetings at Fairways Sports & Social Club.
The new regular festival was run jointly by the Essex County FA's Club Development Officer Ian Bent, FA Tesco Skills Coach Andy Edmunds, Risden Wood Youth FC and the Stewards School Sports Partnership. Five of the Stewards 'Family of Schools' were involved at Parsloe Road, namely Kingsmoor Primary, Milwards Primary, Nazeing Primary, Peterswood Infant an St James' Church of England School.
4v4 is played on a field sized around 25 by 35 yards without a goalkeeper and participants are always actively involved in the game and not static as 'roll-on, roll-off' substitutions are permitted to keep them fresh and allow them all to take part. Smaller 'Pugg' goals are used and there are no offsides, with players able to score from anywhere on the field. Care is also required not to 'slide' tackle and sportsmanship remains paramount.
Players benefit from more touches of the ball in this condensed format, developing their ball control. Local primaries were invited to enjoy four dates and the events were designed to provide football opportunities for children not currently playing within a club. Risden Wood's involvement helped to provide an 'exit route' for them, handily at Fairways, should they wish to continue their participation outside of school time.
Central Venue Leagues are set up at a location where participating teams don't have to travel huge distances to play, with all fixtures taking place in one visit. Most of these leagues are constructed so that, at each event, teams can compete for a trophy for that particular meeting while their fixtures also contribute to an overall table.
Despite a frustratingly-slow start for this programme, Ian was ultimately delighted with its progress and commented: "The first two events were both cancelled due to bad weather in February and March and only two schools were then able to attend in April. But the event snowballed after that and we had excellent numbers for both the last two events, especially the amount of girls attending. That's testament to everyone involved."
"The festival will now be planned again next year as we look to expand and increase it with the aim of not only providing an exit route for players into a local Charter Standard Club, but also to produce a new girls team for Risden Wood to help their club grow. Overall we've witnessed a real success and can't wait for it to get going again!"
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