Neil Lennon has hailed the Helping Hands Community festival of football which allowed children from deprived areas of Edinburgh to enjoy free and structured coaching.
Sunday’s showpiece event in the Meadows, attended by 330 kids, was the culmination of a 16-week programme across six sites in the Capital in which thousands of youngsters have been able to benefit from the expertise of coaches like former Hibs player Michael Weir and ex-Jambo Allan Preston.
“It’s brilliant because it gives under-privileged kids a chance to play in an arena like this,” said Hibs boss Lennon, who braved the rain to support the event. “If I was growing up nowadays I’d be priced out of football because my mum and dad couldn’t have afforded it back in the day. It’s important that every kid has the opportunity to participate in the sport because it’s always been a working-class sport.
“Kids should not be priced out of it and, having spoken to people involved with this project, it is an issue. There should be dialogue and there should be funding because it is the national game. Kids on the housing schemes are normally the hungrier ones, so we could be missing out on a generation of players because of affordability.”
Celtic pair Leigh Griffiths and Scott Brown, Rangers duo Kenny Miller and Lee Wallace, Hibs trio John McGinn, Darren McGregor and Lewis Stevenson, plus Hearts captain Christophe Berra also attended the event organised by boxing gym owner Bradley Welsh. “It’s a brilliant turnout of players,” said Lennon. “You’d get some five-a-side team out of that lot. Brad’s very popular – he’s done a lot for sport in the city, which is why the lads were happy to support this.”