Before London welcomes some of the world's best female footballers for Thursday's UEFA Women's Champions League final at Craven Cottage, girls will get a wider opportunity to become more involved in the game when, for the first time, a Women's Day forms part of the UEFA Champions Festival.
As a key element of the build-up to Thursday's Olympique Lyonnais-1. FFC Turbine Potsdam final, Women's Day takes place on Tuesday at the UEFA Champions Festival in Hyde Park, London – the week-long celebration of the European club game which runs until Saturday as a prelude to the men's UEFA Champions League final.
The dedicated event for women will a new dimension to the festivities, with activities including five-a-side competitions for female footballers of all ages as well as a special skills clinic featuring members of the England women's team.
Youngsters engaged in the Kickz programme, whereby professional men's clubs work with local police forces and young people in some of the United Kingdom's most disadvantaged areas, will have a rare chance to meet their role models and pick up tips from the pros ahead of their campaign in this summer's FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany.
"Obviously the players' technical ability is fantastic," said Kelly Simmons, head of the Football Association's (FA) national game strategy. "The players aren't going to be able to transfer that in one day, but the girls are able to see the level they can aspire to and what sort of level they would need to get to in order to become a top player. I think if I'd had a chance as a young footballer to meet an England player then I'm sure I would have been asking for advice and finding out, if I'm not in a club, how they got involved and how I could get involved."
Explaining the reasons behind the female-themed day, Simmons, a member of the UEFA Grassroots Panel, said: "I think it is to encourage girls and women to come along and take part. We know that while some girls in the younger age groups play mixed football, the majority play in girls teams and therefore it was important to encourage as many as possible to come along – so we organised girls and women-only activities.
"The most important thing is that they have fun, enjoy it and hopefully find out where they could carry on playing football. I think that's critical, so hopefully girls who aren't part of a local club can come along and find out where their club is and how they can get involved."
Female participation in English football is on the rise, with more than 1 million girls and women now playing the game. "It's very much a growing area of football where previously we'd struggled because culturally it was very much a male sport and girls were rooted out to play traditional girls sports like netball and hockey," said Simmons. "But that's changed, the game's opened up, and I think it's stronger for it."
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