AROUND 50 young midnight league footballers had the privilege of playing for their country in the Coalfields Regeneration Trust’s tri-nation Home Internationals which were held in Scotland for the first time on Saturday September 5.
Trust chair, Peter McNestry, described the tournament between Scotland, England and Wales as a “life changing event” for the youngsters taking part.
Apart from the thrill of playing for their country in the stunning state of the art Toryglen Football Centre, the young midnight leaguers were treated to VIP seats at Hampden Park for the Scotland V Macedonia World Cup qualifier courtesy of the Scottish FA and later enjoyed a session at the Kevin Keegan Soccer Circus.
Wales triumphed in the tournament beating Scotland 3-1 in the Final, but Peter McNestry, chair of the CRT who officially opened the event, said: “Everyone taking part in the tournament has been a winner.
“The Coalfields Regeneration Trust is particularly concerned with helping young people.
“It’s not just about jobs or training. It’s about quality of life and giving them all the challenges and opportunities they would have enjoyed if the coal industry had continued and kept everyone in employment.
“This midnight league competition is by far the flagship of our sporting events, not just for those here today, but also the 3,000 young people up and down the country who take part throughout the year.
“The players representing their countries will remember this day for a very long time. We hope in many ways it has changed lives, and we believe it has already.”
Mr McNestry went on to thank the tournament sponsors, Scottish Resources Group and the Scottish team sponsors Thompsons Solicitors, who both have strong links with coalfield communities.
Fellow trustees, Ken Greenfields, vice-chair, Sylvia Wileman, Nicky Wilson and Joe Thomas, as well as MSPs Cathy Jamieson and Cathie Craigie and local councillors joined Mr McNestry at the event.
Andy Auld represented Sponsors Scottish Resources Group, while Bruce Shields represented Thompsons.
The Welsh sponsors were RCT Homes (Meadow Prospect), Cynon Valley Crime Prevention, Tenovus and Cambrian Village Trust.
The six teams taking part were: Scotland, Scotland Thistles, England, England Lions, Wales and Wales Dragons.
After the round-robin stage, Wales and Scotland both had 12 points, with a single goal difference point putting the Welsh top of the table. Then came Scottish Thistles, Wales Dragons, England, and England Lions.
Nicky Wilson, Scottish Trustee of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust picked John Carrick of Scotland at the player of the tournament.
Nicky Wilson said: “This has been a fantastic event, played in the highest of sporting spirit and with some fantastic skills on display.
“We support midnight league football because it gets young people off the streets and onto the pitch.
“What a thrill for all these young lads having the opportunity to represent their country in this Home International tournament.
“It really is an event which widens their horizons, and I am sure many of them will go onto greater things.”
Although the Scots lost out in the final of the tournament, they did see one Scottish victory. Scotland beat Macedonia 2-0 at Hampden to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup in South Africa next year.
Notes for editors:
The Coalfields Regeneration Trust was formed in 1999 to help mining communities recover from the devastating effects of pit closures. Since then, the Trust has spent over £11m in Scotland supporting over 500 community-based and job creation projects in the hardest hit areas.
Scottish Resources Group includes Scottish Coal.
Thompsons Solicitors are one of Scotland’s leading personal injury specialist law firms and have a long and proud tradition as trade union lawyers with strong links to the NUM.
Midnight Leagues is a national network of five-a-side football activity, run by the Scottish FA in partnership with The Bank of Scotland, Coalfields Regeneration Trust, CashBack for Communities and local authorities. The programme aims to get young people off the streets and onto the pitch.
Over 70 venues covering every local authority in Scotland have attracted over 10,000 young people to play football. The sessions run from January – June, and local police and other partners provide advice on the best days and times to hold the events (usually 9pm Friday and Saturday). According to police, this scheme has vastly reduced the number of calls relating to anti-social behaviour where the leagues are in session.
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