Northern Ireland was the latest stop for FIFA’s Live Your Goals programme last week, with over 150 girls taking part in two festival days on 4 and 11 May. These events, which were organised in conjunction with the Irish Football Association (IFA) and hosted in Fivemiletown and Belfast, involved girls between the ages of six and 16 and involved plenty of fun and, of course, football.
Skills drills, small-sided games, inflatables, competitions, music and face painting all took place, while Northern Ireland women’s international players were on hand to take part in drillls, sign autographs, pose for photographs and answer the questions of these young enthusiasts. The shared aim of the IFA and FIFA Women’s Football Development Programme was to further boost the already fast-growing popularity of football among the province’s girls and women, and all involved considered that mission to have been accomplished.
“The FIFA Girls Festivals have allowed us to provide another opportunity for girls to play football in Northern Ireland and we have been delighted by the number of participants involved in the events,” enthused IFA President Jim Shaw.
The festival days were organised by Sara Booth, the association’s Women’s Domestic Football Manager, and she explained why they had been so important. She said: “We are extremely grateful to FIFA for awarding us the money to deliver these Girls Festival Days. Although the numbers will appear relatively low to many outsiders, it is important to realise that we only have about 300 to 400 registered youth players in this country. The majority of the girls attending these festivals are new to football, so we are particularly encouraged by this. The support from FIFA has helped us in our endeavours to raise the profile of the game and the girls loved receiving their very own FIFA t-shirt.”
Northern Ireland international Nadene Caldwell was there to witness the girls’ smiles first-hand at the Belfast event, and she left feeling that the twin aims of promoting football and staging an enjoyable event had both been met in style.
She said: “I thoroughly enjoyed attending the festival. The girls had an amazing time and there were a lot of very talented players. We didn’t have any opportunities like this when we were younger and it can only be good for the future of the game in Northern Ireland that organisations such as FIFA are giving so much support to the local game.”