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Over 313 girls descended on the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre to take part in the first FA Girls' Football Festival in 2017, aimed at increasing and retaining girls' participation in the game, mirroring the FA's ‘We Can Play' campaign.
Organised through the support of Sussex County FA, girls aged between five and 16 years, from various schools across the county were invited to test their skills in a range of activities combining football, fun and music. Accredited FA coaches led the event, with Sussex County FA staff and volunteers on hand to help. The sessions included skills and drills, interactive games, mini matches and the ContiWarmUp Programme - the coaching programme endorsed by the FA.
Caroline Hulme, National Women's Football Project Officer at The FA commented: "We are delighted to be delivering yet another season of FA Girls' Football Festivals in association with Continental Tyres. The girls here today have had the opportunity to try all aspects of football and also had the chance to meet their role models from the female game. We hope that we have inspired these girls to seek further football opportunities following today, supporting our aim in doubling female participation by 2020."
Also on offer was a range of innovative equipment, including an inflatable pitch, speed cage, target shoot, quick feet and batak boards, plus Charlotte Lade, one of the world's leading professional football freestylers, who throughout the day, demonstrated her amazing tricks and skills.
The young athletes had the opportunity to meet five stars from the newly promoted FA WSL 2 Club, Brighton and Hove Albion. Jenna Jegg and Kirsty Barton were on hand during the morning session to discuss life as a semi professional female footballer and give advice on how to get involved in the game. In the afternoon, we had the pleasure of welcoming Sophie Perry and Faye Baker, ending the festival with an inspiring question and answer session.
Brighton and Hove Albion star, Sophie Perry quoted: "Today has been fantastic. Sussex FA have put in so much hard work organising this event, providing over 300 girls with the opportunity to take part in the festival.
"A lot of the girls I have spoken to today have had no involvement with a football club, which is why I think events like this are really important, as it allows them to engage in the competitive side of football, as well as the fun side. Being here at the training ground, the facilities are unbelievable, so I hope this environment will inspire the girls to want to continue to play football."
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