Players from Scottish clubs have backed a charity initiative to give free football coaching sessions to children from the city’s most marginalised areas.
Boxer Bradley Welsh, who featured in the latest Trainspotting movie, has also put his weight behind the initiative to give children whose families cannot afford coaching classes, the chance to take part.
After a successful trial of the weekly sessions, charity Helping Hands – with the support of the professional footballers and coaches – wants to reach out to more children in more areas.
Welsh said: “Unless you’ve got £20-£30 to spare, kids from marginalised areas are missing out on the chance of joining football sessions. There is a void of activities for these children that we are trying to fill.
“This is about the whole community – we are taking back parks and giving them a new lease of life to be able to give quality coaching to boys and girls.
“This is not about talent scouting but just giving these children the opportunity for quality coaching.” Packs with healthy food and water provided by Day-Today and uSave convenience shops will be given out to children at each session, with information on nutrition provided by the Scottish Government.
Former Hearts footballer Allan Preston and Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths, both from Leith, have already volunteered their time, as has professional coach and ex-Hibs star Mickey Weir.
Preston said: “I think its a wonderful enterprise that Brad and Helping Hands have come up with. It’s expensive to play football – boys clubs, in the city can charge up to £40 just to play football.
“If you’ve got more than one child, it all adds up. I really hope it catches on and the initiative goes throughout the rest of the country and the UK because young kids deserve the chance.
“We’ve got an obesity problem in the UK and this is another way of helping kids enjoy sport and enjoy a healthy life – it’s a wonderful venture.
“We’re all ex-professionals who are giving just a little bit of time each week to help.”
Helping Hands has helped transform the parks in Moredun, Muirhouse, Wester Hailes and Leith into suitable training pitches, including adding containers for storing kit.
“This is about letting the kids and their parents know we are here for them – it’s about community engagement and inspiring the kids,” Mr Welsh added.
Each session is coached by professionals and aims to give boys and girls aged 8-12 dynamic practice including passing and shooting practice and individual time on the ball.
Volunteers from the charity have also identified two new sites to expand the programme including Pilton and Craigmillar/Niddrie, in the coming months. Last night the free football health and wellbeing programme officially launched at the Moredun Community park, revealing Stellar Group sports management company as one of the top sponsors.
Families are encouraged to come down to one of the local sessions to find out more.