Over the last few years, summer football tournaments in Scotland have become a popular feature of the downtime between the season’s end and new beginning. Many tournaments start as one-off events, and most have snowballed into regular annual celebrations of all things good in the Scottish youth football scene.
This summer saw the launch of the inaugural Arthurlie Juniors Football Festival in Barrhead, attracting a wide range of teams and age groups from all parts of Glasgow and the West of Scotland.
But summer was apparently not in the mood for joining the throng of eager young hopefuls on the day, as heavy rain piled down to test the spirits of these eager youngsters as they went about doing what they love best: playing football.
The enthusiasm was far from dampened though, as all the teams proved by shirking off the threat of sniffles and getting down to an all-day feast of footballing fun.
Organiser Barry Lemke managed to attract a great range of teams and age groups from all over the local districts to head to the Cowan Park pitches in search of glory.
Last summer he was approached by Greig McIlreavy of the Arthurlie committee with a view to setting up a youth academy for Arthurlie Juniors. In the short space of eight months, Barry has managed to grow an impressive set of teams from just the original one.
Barry said: “We have went from one team to nearly eleven teams. We have mostly all age groups filled and for the ones we don’t have filled, we are trying our very best with the likes of open trials and so forth.”
The club now boast a roster of around 200 players, and have laid the foundations for a grassroots legacy that can be fruitful and enjoyed for years to come.
Many coaches believe post-season tournaments are important to keep their young stars involved with a competitive edge during the holidays.
“They’re good for the end of the season to keep the boys together, keep them ticking over and give them something to play for.” said Mark Carnegie, one of Broomhill Sports Club’s Under-13s coaches.
He added: “It also give you a chance to see other teams that you don’t see on a daily basis. They [the players] enjoy the games, some of the games get a bit tetchy but it’s good to see them playing with a biting edge and generally speaking the lads enjoy themselves.”
Each age group had their own tournament format, with the eventual winners of each category awarded with a cup and the runners up given a commemorative plate.
In the Under 16 category - the first subdivision of the festival to kick off - Harmony Row triumphed over Glennifer Thistle.
In the Under 15 age group, Airdrie claimed the cup glory after beating out Celtic Boys Club who went home with the plate to show for their efforts.
In the Under-13 section, it looks like Mark has been doing a great job at Broomhill, after their team were only denied the ultimate glory in their tournament by an impressive Harmony Row, who claimed their second cup of the day.
And in the Under-12 category, it was Glenvale that grabbed the opportunity to take the cup back with them. They overcame AC Irvine in the final, who were unlucky only to leave with the plate.
This initial tournament proved to be an exciting start to the first in a long line of annual events in years to come.
Barry said: “It’s all about getting the name out there and next year I will make sure we have the biggest and best again.”
It’s down to the time and effort of people like Barry and all the other organisers, coaches, sponsors and parents up and down the length of the country to set the wheels in motion for events like this, and the benefits that they bring to the sport at grassroots level should lay solid foundations for the future stars of the Scottish game.
One thing can be certain and was clearly evident on the day: the continually impressive level of enthusiasm that the youth players bring to festivals like this will ensure that these events will thrive in the summers to come.
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