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Mark Sampson and Karen Carney were the stellar names from the world of women's football to greet over 300 girls at the FA Girls' Football Festival at St George's Park.
Girls aged between 5 and 16 years from schools across the county were invited to test their skills in a range of activities combining football, fun and music. The festivals are a joint initiative by the FA and Continental Tyres, providing an exciting, interactive football experience for both those new to the game and regular players.
Girls also chatted and enjoyed a kick-about with Birmingham City and England winger, Karen Carney, and England Ladies Head Coach, Mark Sampson. The two were on hand to share their expertise and give the girls tips during their matches. Also in attendance and guiding girls through the event were FA Women's Super League (WSL) 2 side Aston Villa Ladies, Katie Wilkinson and Olivia Fergusson.
Mark Sampson said: "It's great to see the variety of options that the girls have got here and that they're being exposed to lots of different challenges. There's some playing football, some in goal and some refereeing. It really broadens opportunities."
Carney followed on with: "Continental Tyres have created a great event here, there are loads of challenges that look great fun for the girls. I was the only girl who played football in my area when I was growing up, so to get over 300 girls here in one venue, at one time, is fantastic. It shows how much the game has developed, participation rates have gone through the roof."
FA approved coaches led the event, with a number of FA staff and volunteers on hand to help out and referee. Sessions from the FA Skills team included skills and drills, interactive games, mini matches and the ContiWarmUp Programme - the coaching programme from Continental Tyres, endorsed by the FA.
The festival, aimed at increasing and retaining girls' participation in the game, follows a number of events already held in 2015 and was organised through the support of the Staffordshire County FA.
Polly Fildes, Women's Football National Project Officer for the FA, said: "Today's FA Girls' Football Festival at St. George's Park was excellent.
"We had a really high number of girls attend and we're extremely proud that between The FA and Continental Tyres we can get the message out there, about just how accessible women's football is.
"Katie, Olivia, Mark and Karen have been a real inspiration to the girls today. The students were overwhelmed to have both an England player and her head coach in attendance; it really gives them something to aim for.
"At the festival, there are a number of exciting football-based activities, such as a speed cage and agility testing on offer, as well as goalkeeping, refereeing and freestyle workshops. We also incorporate face painting, hair braiding and music to show that whatever your involvement in the sport, there is something for everyone. Our overall goal is to get all the girls that attend interested in, and playing, the beautiful game."
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