England defender Kyle Walker has kicked off an exciting new opportunity for teenagers.
The Tottenham star is backing Vauxhall’s Football Mash Up campaign, which aims to tackle the number of 14-17-year-olds dropping out of the sport.
The sessions offer youngsters a more recreational form of the game in after-school clubs, played in quality small-sided facilities and run by specialist FA Vauxhall Youth officers.
Walker, 21, took part in a kickabout with a group of young players at the Vauxhall Recreation Centre in Luton.
He said; “I really enjoyed the Football Mash Up sessions. It is a fantastic programme aimed at keeping players in the game.
“No matter what level you reach there is nothing better than having a game of football with your mates and the Mash Up programme gives teenagers the opportunity to take control and play on their terms.”
Teens will be able to sign up for a 10-week block of sessions which will cater for all abilities and fitness levels.
It is hoped that these sessions will inspire them to get back into affiliated football in either small-sided or 11v11 formats.
Duncan Aldred, Managing Director and Chairman of Vauxhall Motors, said; “We are delighted to launch Football Mash Up here in Luton at the Vauxhall Recreation Centre.
“Tackling the issues of youth participation is vital for the future good of the game and alongside The FA we are determined to make a significant impact on the dropout rates at this age group.
“Our commitment to football in this country begins at the grassroots and continues right through to the national senior teams for both men and women and Football Mash Up forms an important part of our sponsorship.”
The FA and Vauxhall have appointed eight full-time specialist officers with a target of facilitating Football Mash Up sessions for over 50,000 teenage footballers throughout the year.
The coaches will also help support teenage football in schools and clubs, helping to re-instil young people’s affection for playing the game and deliver high quality training.
The FA’s Director of Football Services Jonathan Hall added: “The FA Vauxhall Youth Football Mash Up programme will really help us tackle the issues that are currently affecting the 14-17 age range.
“This hasn’t been tried at this level before and we really believe the programme will open up football to a whole new audience of teenagers, whatever their ability or fitness level.
“We hope this is the first step in getting those that are disengaged back into affiliated football."
As part of their focus on the 14-25 age group and drive to address participation rates, Sport England has committed to match-fund £100,000 of Vauxhall’s investment through its SportsMatch scheme to launch the programme.
Sport England Chief Executive Jennie Price said: “Football plays an incredibly important role in grassroots sport, with more than 2.1m people playing the game once a week.
“We’re delighted that Vauxhall is working with The FA and Sport England to keep more youngsters involved in our national game by creating new recreational opportunities for young people to take part.”
Visit Football Mash Up's official Facebook page for more information