The GFC Community Trust's tournament was a huge success
Last week, 14 Kent school teams took part in the Local Finals of the Kinder + Sport EFL Girls Cup, run by our Community Trust team.
The six-a-side tournament was the local round of a nationwide competition, which culminates in a final being played at Wembley Stadium. The winners of the local round would first progress to the Area Final, representing Gillingham Football Club.
We had great interest in the tournament from schools across Kent – some new and some veterans of the competition – and it was fantastic to be joined by over 100 girls on the day!
For many, this was their first chance to play in a competitive football tournament. “This is the first time we have entered,” explained Jamie Dance, teacher at Thomas Aveling School. “It’s an amazing opportunity for all of the girls. There’s a really good focus put on participation; the girls are really enjoying it.”
Even for the more experienced schools, the tournament provided a unique opportunity for the players. “I’ve been bringing teams to the tournament since it started,” Effie Dodds, teacher at Highworth Grammar School, said. “It’s a different experience to 11-a-side, which is good. The girls get more touch on the ball.”
The event was held at Strood Sports Centre in Medway, and a huge thank you goes to them for their help and hospitality throughout the day. The Community Trust team were also joined by players from our Girls Academy team and MidKent College sports students, all of whom did a fantastic job officiating the matches.
Our Girls Academy team all agreed that the tournament was a great opportunity for budding female players. As player Stevie reflected; “There was nothing like this when I was younger – I would have liked to have taken part.” Academy Vice-captain and Deputy Head Girl Emma agreed, and added some advice for the players. “For any girls who might want to progress with their football, my advice is to work for it; don’t give up and put the effort in while you’re there.”
The schools certainly put effort in during the tournament, with some fantastic competitive games taking place, and some stylish football skills on show! Through the passionate performances and competitive spirit, it was great to see all of the teams behaving in a respectful manner, with many schools setting up their own friendly games during fixture breaks.
After battling it out in the group stages, eight teams progressed to the quarter-finals, with the winning four schools entering the semi-final play-offs. It was Mayfield School vs. Harris Academy on one pitch, and Highworth Grammar vs. Highstead Grammar on the other. Two tense semi-finals were played, with Harris Academy Falconwood and Ashford-based Highworth Grammar School both winning their respective games and progressing to the final.
A nail-biting last game saw fantastic efforts from both teams, but it was Highworth Grammar School’s A team that clinched the victory in the end, winning the match 2-0 to be crowned our local champions.
Although Highworth’s team took the victory, for many of the girls taking part, the tournament cemented their love for the game, and they were keen to encourage other girls to consider taking up football. Runners-up Harris Academy’s players’ advice for any interested girls was to “go and have a try, and if you like it, carry on!”
The tournament was also a chance for the girls to show off their skills, and spectators were left impressed by the talent on display. As Participation Development Officer Jack Knighton, who organised the tournament, observed on the day “each year the standard of players improves, and again we’ve got a really good standard across all of the teams playing today, which is great to see.” Women and Girls’ Development Officer Georgia Bowie agreed. “In my three seasons in this role, this particular Girls Cup was in my eyes the best one yet. There have always been one or two girls that stand out as strong players across the whole tournament, but with this particular competition we saw talent across a variety of schools.”
“The Girls Cup is a fantastic opportunity and platform for girls to show off not only their abilities and talents but their passion and desire to succeed in the game,” she continued. “It is refreshing to see so many girls that are enthusiastic about taking part and wanting to progress further in the competition. Having so many girls be passionate about football is great development and thoroughly enjoyable to be a part of.”
Highworth Grammar School now go on to represent Gillingham Football Club at the competition’s Area Finals, to be hosted by Millwall FC in January, with the chance to win themselves a trip to the Regional Finals, and potentially get to play on the coveted Wembley Stadium pitch. Good luck to the girls; we’ll be supporting you all the way!
A huge thank you to all of the teams, players, teachers, staff members, parents and supporters, Girls Academy players, MidKent College students, community coaches and Strood Sports Centre who all helped to make the day a great success. And congratulations again to Highworth Grammar School!
For any girls inspired by the Girls Cup who would love to have a go at playing football in a fun and relaxed atmosphere, come along to our Girls’ Pay & Play sessions at Strood Sports Centre, targeted for 11-13 year olds for only £1 per session. Or you can book a spot at our FREE Girls Only Soccer School this December (space limited).
If any schools are interested in the development of their female football teams, then please contact Georgia Bowie (firstname.lastname@example.org; 01634 350125) on how we may be able to help.