The beautiful game – How can we encourage further growth of the game for the next generation?

By Callum McFadden – @football_cfb

This image brought back memories of why I fell in love with football

Football. A game involving two teams of 11 players, a football and two goalmouths. A simple game some may say but there is no doubt that it’s a beautiful game.

It’s by far the most popular sport on the planet with some estimates that 3.5 billion people call themselves fans and it’s a game that so many young boys and girls fall in love from at a young age – myself included.

I should state that when I’m talking about falling in love with the game, I’m not talking about the elite level of football with the multi millionaires and the sensationalised exposure that it receives. Yes watching the highest level of any sport helps grow interest and of course it did for me too but most growing up fall properly in love the game by playing it themselves.

Therefore, I’m talking about the game at grassroots level. Our game.

I captured this image last month in North Wales and it immediately took me back to my childhood.

Playing the game around my back garden with jumpers or bricks as goalposts pretending I was every team on my very own episode of Sportscene and Match Of The Day. Playing for hours on end without wanting to stop. Running home from school to get changed as quickly as possible and head straight to the local park – that is football for me.

Playing with my cousin Jack with jumpers for goalposts.

It’s how I fell in love with the game and it’s how I’ll always remember the game. My worry is that the raw passion for the game itself and playing for enjoyment is dwindling among young kids.

In the modern world, FIFA is a game that many young kids play and love (not that there is anything wrong with that) but in my experience as a teacher it seems to their main love of the game. YouTube is another wonderful platform but again it’s a platform that kids seemingly would rather watch football on than play the game themselves.

Now, this article is not a criticism of modern technology and a slight on the younger generation. It’s just an observation of how things have changed in my personal opinion.

Playing boys club football at Gourock was special.

The children I’ve taught over the last few years who love the game seem to only really play the game at boys club level or when a game is ‘organised’ which is good in some respects but sad in other ways for me. What I mean by this is the lack of spontaneity in the young generation to see the beauty and joy of playing at the local park or by using jumpers as goalposts and playing a random unorganised game with friends for the fun of it all saddens me.

Playing for my local boys club Gourock.

Of course I am not naive enough not to understand the causes of this. 24 hour news has shone a greater light on the dangers within society especially when the well-being of children is concerned and I can totally understand the reasons that parents don’t like sending their children out alone to local parks like they would have without questioning it only a decade or so ago.

So how can we as a society combat this?

The answer for me and many others within the game is build more indoor football facilities.

I recently spoke with Craig Brown and Robbie Crawford who both highlighted Iceland as the prime example of a country that is reaping the benefits of investing in indoor facilities and ensuring that football is safely accessible for children of all ages in this more cautious and considerate world. Craig argued that greater indoor facilities is a must to ensure children can play football in a safe environment in order to produce more top class players and a greater love of the game.

This view was backed up by Robbie – who having played in Iceland with FH has experienced this first hand – who backed Craig’s viewpoint up by emphasising that the standard of facilities that each team had was also used for the benefit of the local community. This was in his view a win-win situation as not only did the first team and academy set up have opportunities to develop but the local community also had the exact same opportunities to develop their love of football further too.

To conclude, football in my view is the greatest game in the world and it’s a game we especially here in Scotland should be looking to protect and further enhance and encourage to future generations. In my view, an investment in indoor facilities and making the game more affordable recreationally are two main ways that could do just that and should be done as soon as possible.

As for me, football can be a major force for good and the younger we can allow children and young people to see that and experience it for themselves the better.

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Published by Callum McFadden

Football CFB founder, @backonside ambassador. Freelance football writer & broadcaster - Enquiries:

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