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Peter May Sports Centre welcomed 270 girls to take part in a free FA Girls' Football Festival on Tuesday 27th September, organised with the support of the Essex County FA to encourage females to participate in football.
Girls aged between five and 16 years from various clubs and schools across the county were invited to test their skills in a range of activities combining football, fun and music. The festival was 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.
FA-approved coaches led the event, with a number of FA and County FA staff and volunteers on-hand to help out and referee. The sessions included skills and drills, interactive games, mini matches and ContiWarmUp - a coaching programme endorsed by the FA.
Caroline Hulme, National Women's Football Project Officer at The FA, commented: "It is fantastic to see so many young girls enjoying playing football here today. For some it's their first experience of football and may even be the very first time they have kicked a ball.
"A huge thank you to Emma Burden and her team from Essex County FA for all the hard work they have put in leading up to the event to ensure girls in the county have the opportunity to play. We hope to see these girls continuing to play football in the future as a result of today, supporting our aim to double female participation!"
The festival also offered a range of innovative equipment, including an inflatable pitch, speed cage, target shoot, quick feet and batak boards. Charlotte Lade, one of the world's leading professional football freestylers, also demonstrated her amazing tricks and skills.
Girls chatted and enjoyed a kickabout with Evie Clarke and Merrick Will, stars of the FA Women's Super League, who both play for London Bees. The two ladies discussed life as semi-professional female footballers and gave advice on how to get involved in the game.
In addition, Emma Byrne, Arsenal Ladies goalkeeper, made a very special surprise visit to the festival for a question and answer session with the girls in the afternoon. Tottenham Hotspur Ladies First Team Coach Karen Hills, Captain Jenna Schillaci, Lucia Leon and Ronnell Humes also dropped by to inspire the youngsters.
Merrick said: "This whole experience was something really special to be a part of. Inspiring all the young girls to get involved and, most importantly, stay involved in football was a pleasure, and something that was really brought across by the coaches as well. The initiative between The FA and Continental Tyres was brilliant and the festival really highlighted the fun, creative side of football which really encouraged the girls to try out new skills.
"With the recent success the Lionesses have seen, it was a really positive way to promote women's football and inspire the next generation of talented female footballers. A huge well done must go out to all girls, coaches and their teachers who made the effort to make it a successful and enjoyable day. Thanks for having us!"
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