Written by Gareth Winmill – Head of Doorstep Sport and Network Engagement
In 2022, after a 64-year wait Wales earned its place in the Men’s Football World Cup, igniting nationwide celebrations. To mark the significance of this achievement, the Welsh Government allocated a total of £1.8 million to support initiatives that aligned with the core objectives; encompassed the promotion of Wales, showcasing its values, and ensuring a positive and enduring legacy for generations to come.
StreetGames were successful in securing a grant of £165,100 from this fund, enabling us to collaborate with 28 locally trusted organisations (LTOs) across Wales, amplifying football-led Doorstep Sport activities for young people living in underserved communities.
One remarkable facet of this initiative was the inclusivity that lay at its heart. Six out of these 28 organisations conducted fully inclusive sessions, catering to young individuals with additional needs. This extension enhanced StreetGames’ existing Get Out Get Active project in South Wales, showcasing a commitment to diversity, empowerment, and social integration.
Since the initiation of the World Cup, these 28 organisations diligently provided weekly sessions to an impressive 4,076 young participants. These sessions, designed to be more than just sport-related activities, incorporated cultural and educational elements. The intention was not only to shed light on the rich history of Welsh football but also to offer young people a chance to explore the footballing history and cultures of other participating nations.
One of the standout projects that exemplified the impact of this initiative was the “Treharris Boys & Girls Club.” In this instance, girls-only social football sessions were established, planned entirely by the young participants themselves. The sessions seamlessly wove in themes of Welsh identity, with the national anthem and the iconic Welsh song “Yma o Hyd” being sung at the outset. This creative approach not only fostered inclusivity but also celebrated Welsh heritage.
The feedback from the programme were overwhelmingly positive, as evidenced by the 97.2% approval rating from the young attendees who found the sessions to be “very good” or “good”. Beyond the numbers, the project’s impact reverberated through the personal stories of these young individuals.
Volunteer opportunities emerged as a highlight for many participants, allowing them to take an active role in shaping the sessions and inspiring others to join. The presence of trusted adults, such as coaches and youth workers, garnered praise for their positive influence and engaging methods. The element of fun was a significant motivator, with attendees eager to participate because of the enjoyable nature of the sessions.
Moreover, the diverse range of activities offered within these sessions encouraged young participants to step out of their comfort zones and try new sports and skills. The social aspect was equally crucial, providing a safe space for both socialising and meeting new friends. Additionally, the provision of food during sessions further enriched the experience, offering insights into the culinary traditions of the participating World Cup countries.
For some, this initiative held even more profound implications. Young individuals from refugee backgrounds found an avenue for enhancing their English language skills, boosting their confidence to communicate beyond the sessions.
The success of the StreetGames World Cup initiative was attributed to various factors, as highlighted by the feedback from project leaders. The importance of adaptability in delivery, especially in accommodating individual needs, was underscored. This proved crucial during the winter season, necessitating contingency plans to ensure the engagement of young participants.
Undoubtedly, the power of major sporting events, like the Men’s Football World Cup, played a pivotal role in rekindling young people’s interest in sports and physical activities. The affiliation with the Football Association of Wales (FAW) training package lent credibility to the program and served as a catalyst for youth participation and volunteering.