Following our successful Girls Cup tournament, the Gillingham FC Community Trust team were back at Strood Sports Centre last week to run the local round of the Kids Cup tournament.
The Kinder + Sport EFL Kids Cup is nationwide six-a-side tournament for U11 school teams, culminating in a final played at Wembley Stadium. The winner of our Local Round would progress to the Regional Finals, representing Gillingham Football Club.
We had a fantastic response to sign-ups, and were fully subscribed for the tournament. On the day, we were joined by 35 schools from across the county – some new and some tournament veterans – all ready to show off their footballing skills.
With over 280 boys and girls playing across six pitches, it was guaranteed to be a fun day!
We were also once again joined by our Post-16 Girls Academy players and Mid-Kent College sports students, who all did an excellent job refereeing the matches and keeping track of all 97 games across the tournament!
The competition started with the group stages, and from the off we saw some fantastic goals and super saves. The six group winners then progressed through to the quarter-finals alongside the best two runners up. After four more close games, including two which ended in penalty shoot-outs, we were down to our final four schools.
The thrilling semi-finals saw Minterne Community Junior School take on Davington Primary School on one pitch, and Offham Primary School versus The Academy of Woodlands on the other. After two competitive games, with nine goals scored between the teams, eventually we had our finalists – Minterne vs. Offham.
It was clear that the competition had generated a lot of excitement for all of the schools involved. Asked about what they were most looking forward to, the most popular answer from teams was “playing football”, alongside “scoring” and “winning” of course! Teacher Josh Homewood from Maypole Primary School, who are regular tournament attendees, explained, “the kids haven’t stopped talking about it – they’ve been so unbelievably excited since they got the letter two months ago!”
“You can’t fault the tournament,” he added. “It’s been fantastic. One of the best parts for them is playing alongside their friends… it’s really helped them. The tournament has been getting better every year – it’s great to see lots of different schools here.”
Participation Development Officer Jack Knighton, who organised the tournament, agreed that the event had been a great success, adding “it’s always important to run events like this – it’s great for the kids to be getting out and enjoying the game.”
Across all of the games played at the tournament, we saw a friendly competitive spirit, and all teams involved represented themselves in a truly fair and sportsmanlike manner. There were also goals galore – 386 to be exact!
Back to the games, and with both finalists ready and raring to go, the last match kicked off. Cheered on by their teachers and supporters, both teams put in a fantastic display of end to end football. But as the final whistle blew, it was West-Malling based Offham Primary School who were ahead to make them our Kids Cup 2016-17 local winners!
It was a real ‘magic of the cup’ moment for the team, who had never entered a competitive tournament before, and had only played friendly games. As one student explained, “we don’t play as a team at school – we’re just a bunch of boys who want to play football.” Another added about the win, “this is unreal – it’s amazing!”
Reflecting on the day, Offham teacher Alison Thomas agreed; “We’re a small school and this is the first time we’ve entered the tournament. It’s been amazing – the kids have absolutely loved it!”
Following their win, the team listened with real excitement and awe as they heard the news about the next round and the training session they will receive, before the players took a lap of honour of the pitch, bearing the Gills flag.
The school will now progress to the Regional Final in March. If they win that, it’s on to Wembley – the ‘magic of the cup’ is only just beginning!
Thank you to all of the schools who took part in this fantastic day, and to all of the staff and parents who supported the event. A big thank you also to our Girls Academy and Mid-Kent College students for officiating the matches, and to Strood Sports Centre for their help with hosting the event.
Congratulations again to winners Offham Primary School – we look forward to having you represent Gillingham FC next round!
Gillingham FC Community Trust can offer a variety of activities for local schools across the county. To find out more, contact us via GFCCT@priestfield.com, or call 01634 350125.