FAW puts focus on schools disability football

UEFA Grassroots Day in Wales will be an opportunity for the association's schools disability programme to take centre stage along with its work in promoting small-sided games for children.

Disability football is at the forefront of the Welsh FA's plans
Disability football is at the forefront of the Welsh FA's plans ©Welsh Football Association

Football activities for disabled people will form a large part of the Football Association of Wales (FAW) programme for UEFA Grassroots Day.

In particular, the National Schools Disability Football Festival in Newtown, Powys, on Wednesday 25 May will mark the culmination of the FAW's annual schools disability programme. Being staged on UEFA Grassroots Day itself, the Newtown event will follow three other regional events in April and early May. In 2010, 196 disabled children from 28 teams took part in the national festival with a further 498 children involved in the regional activities.

"The festival continues the good work we've done in the last six years in getting more disabled people playing the game," Neil Ward, chief executive of the FAW Welsh Football Trust, told UEFA.com. "We have what we call a pan-disability approach to involve as many disability groups as possible, because we don't have the critical mass for individual disability groups.

"The disability festivals will be going on using mini-pitches and pugg goals, which are pop-up goals, to ensure the kids play, have a good time and get as many touches of the ball and score as many goals as possible."

Also part of the FAW's plans is a mini-football festival scheduled for Saturday 28 May, in which clubs from the South Wales area, in their under-seven, U8 and U9 categories, will be invited to play four-a-side, five-a-side and six-a-side matches. The festival will signal the end of the season – while also showcasing the FAW's mini-football developments of the last two years.

"Mini-football has been an important programme for us in recent years. Traditionally we've played eight-a-side up to the age of U11 but in the past few years we've been reducing the size of teams to four against four for U7s and have had a staggered approach by increasing the number of players at other age groups, leading to 11-a-side at U12, although we are looking at a transition to 9v9 at U12, leading to 11-a-side at U13," said Ward.

"Grassroots Day is very important as it gives grassroots football a focus and allows us to publicise events that are going on. It also helps within the association to improve its profile. There are so many competing interests within associations – the professional and semi-professional games, the national league and obviously the national teams – and we need to keep reinforcing to the decision-makers that grassroots is where it all starts.

"Every top player has come through the grassroots structure, therefore we need to keep investing and keep working hard in grassroots activities to make sure we produce the players of the future – not just the better players but those who fall in love with the game after coming to a game."