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Boys and girls across the County have been taken-in by a relatively new 4v4 football phenomenon as Clacton, Southend and Barking were the latest venues to sample a scaled down format which sees participants competing in just a 20 by 30-yard grid and receiving markedly more touches of the ball.
This innovative version of the nation's favourite game, which is surging in popularity by assisting in the development of control and passing skills, requires less space than the eleven-a-side equivalent and isn't position-specific. Therefore, participants have to change their mindset very quickly from attacking to defending and, as less players are required, the format is more accessible for clubs with small numbers.
Debbie Moore, Chair of Barking Ladies F.C. who were heavily involved in the operation of one of the events, was delighted with the progress made by young footballers in the area when she commented: "These festivals are a brilliant way of getting young girls interested in football and all the girls really enjoy each game and it's a good means of getting them used to playing as part of a team."
Anyone can take part in the game, which was partly designed to replicate street football as closely as possible, so no players are left standing on the touch line. As with traditional small-sided football, this version can be played all year round and clubs can organize a 4v4 event any time they like. The only equipment needed is cones to mark out a pitch and 'Pugg Goals' which are used for Essex County Football Association events, although cones or even the more traditional jumpers can be used instead!
There are no specific 4v4 clubs or courses yet, although the FA Level Two Football Coaching Certificate has recently been changed to involve it. Clubs are signing-up to tournaments currently being organized via the ECFA and it's hoped more clubs will soon be concentrating on 4v4 and signing into small-sided football.
Clubs from the brand new Girls Under-10s North East League came together in mid-January at the Clacton Leisure Centre to get involved in a second winter break 4v4 festival. The event, which was funded via a successful Football Foundation Small Grants Scheme application, saw 57 girls take part in a set of 'round robin' fixtures that took place indoors to avoid the cold weather. The teams taking part included: Brightlingsea Regent, Colchester Town, Colchester Villa, Clacton United, Little Oakley and Tiptree Minors. Three female Young Leaders assisted on the day to ensure the smooth running of the event supervised by ECFA staff Ian Bent and Emma Burden. Emma explained: "We've been working closely with clubs in the North East of Essex to ensure football is more accessible within isolated areas and to decrease travelling times. When we finished, the girls we met were looking forward to their second set of small sided fixtures and their very first competitive, structured football, so the signs are already promising."
A first for Year Three girls in South Essex saw a tournament staged in partnership with Active Soccer Sports Academy (ASSA) and the ECFA involving seven teams from four different schools, including: Boume's Green Juniors, Thorpe Greenways, Thorpe Dene and Richmound. Attending the event were Jo Chase, Neville Hickton and Neil Lake from ASSA and coaches Christian Lett and Sian Larkin on behalf of the ECFA Coaching sessions within these schools had already taken place as over 100 girls took part, with encouraging feedback coming from teachers and children alike. Despite the intensely cold weather, 40 girls competed in another round robin scenario of six-minute games, and the enthusiasm showed by the players and parents was exemplary. After an intense round of competitive games, the eventual winners were Boume's Green, who received trophies from England Under-23 international Sian.
Mayesbrook Park was buzzing once again late last year as the latest of a string of successful 4v4 girls festivals returned to Barking. Up to 30 girls took part in the event which was set-up via a special partnership between the ECFA and Barking Ladies Football Club, who hosted and ran the festival. Five teams of Under-10s played mini, non-competitive games and all participants received a certificate of attendance. Teams from Barking Ladies, Singh Sabha Barking and Little Thurrock Dynamos Wildkatz Diamonds took part in the third festival to take place in the Borough and clubs are being encouraged to set up further Under-10 teams to help support the creation of a new local league which begins this September. Further details can be obtained from Sharon Brownlie on (01245) 393074 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The next Barking event will be taking place on Saturday 14th March between 10am and 12 noon.
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