Grassroots sport returns following lockdown

Enfield Playing Fields
Football and other outdoor sports can now take place for the first time in months

Football is among the sports now allowed to resume outdoors, writes Andrew Warshaw

Competitive league football at Enfield Town FC may be several months away in terms of a first-team restart but below senior level it’s all systems go starting in early April, after the government gave the green light for organised grassroots sport to resume.

The football club runs a number of junior sides, all of whom are back in action having been mothballed for the best part of three months. Easter Sunday is the projected date for the resumption of most of the club’s 16 teams, from under-sevens to under-18s, playing in organised leagues on park pitches at weekends until the end of May.

“They can’t wait to get going,” said Town board member Ram Ismail. “They’ve lost a huge chunk of their active life. We have always been about trying to give everyone a chance, no matter what their age.”

A vast majority of the kids who make up the various age groups are from in and around the borough, serving as a conveyor belt to rise through the ranks, just as players do at professional level. The youngest ones start off in five-a-side teams, moving up to seven- and nine-a-side as they get older and finally to eleven-a-side.

It’s not just the youth teams who are starting up. At the other end of the scale there is walking football for the over-50s, while the club is particularly proud of its Saturday morning football school which kicks off again on Saturday 3rd April, created for kids who may not otherwise get picked for their respective age groups.

“This is so important for us,” said Ram. “You get kids of ten, eleven, twelve who are not ready or do not enjoy the competitive side and regular midweek training commitments. By coming to the football school, they are getting their fix. The whole programme buys into the concept of us being a community club.”

Even more laudable is a partnership between the club and the local NHS trust, offering children with cerebral palsy and other co-ordination difficulties specialised coaching sessions. The financing for the kit and match expenses of the adult learning disability squad comes courtesy of one of Enfield’s leading companies, Metaswitch, whose executive assistant Gill Paschalis has been driving the collaboration.

She told the Dispatch:“I have seen for myself the positive impact that this has had on these children and their families.

“I have had the privilege of joining some of those families on the touch line and was able to hear the wonderful and positive stories that our involvement has helped to achieve.”

Last but very much not least in terms of the club’s community activities, the large-scale coaching initiative extends to helping local schools that focus on older children with social problems. One such school is Orchardside, whose head of physical education, Simon Bolden, outlined the benefits of the sessions provided by Enfield Town in assisting emotional development.

“Students are at Orchardside School because they have barriers to their learning which can affect the opportunities they are given to succeed and achieve in life,” said Simon. “This initiative allows students to not just develop skills and techniques, through football, but to improve health benefits socially, physically and emotionally.

“I believe this also improved the attendance to school, as the students were so excited. Enfield Town have been very supportive. It has been a very tough time for all schools across the UK but these initiatives are more important than ever to support local communities and support mental health.”