The Football Association has today (Tuesday 6 May) announced plans for a weekend of football celebrations starting Friday 6 June, with the nation being encouraged to get out and play football as excitement builds ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The weekend, which will be called Reds v Blues – marking the classic team colours used most often in the nation’s favourite game – aims to inspire people of all ages and abilities to sign up and represent a Red or Blue team before playing football in whatever form they wish.
This could range from kickabouts in gardens to organised 5-a-side and 11-a-side matches. Scores from all the games that take place will be combined to create an overall final score at the end of the day.
Former Arsenal, Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers and England Under-21 footballer, Fabrice Muamba will be joined by former semi-professional player, TV presenter and Heart FM radio host, Mark Wright, as team captains for the Reds and Blues – leading the drive for others to get involved.
On Friday 6 June, The FA has teamed up with 5-a-side providers Power League, Play Football and Goals to set up Reds v Blues tournaments, with fantastic prizes at stake in each centre.
On Saturday 7 June, The FA is urging everyone who loves the game to hold their own Reds v Blues matches. It will be easy to pick a colour, pick up a ball and start to play.
The FA is also working with 50 County FAs to run activities on Saturday 7 June.
Flagship events include a beach football festival in Dorset FA – more than fitting against the backdrop of a World Cup in Brazil. Also taking place will be a disability football showcase at St. George’s Park, and an eleven-a-side event in Liverpool.
The FA will also give away 10,000 special red and blue footballs, and has partnered with Goals, Play Football and Power League football centres to offer special rates during the World Cup on selected dates.
Between 12 June and 13 July, The FA Mars Just Play will be offering one free kickabout to each adult at participating venues. To get involved, anyone over 16 can simply search online for Just Play (www.TheFA.com/justplay), enter their postcode, and book themselves into a local kickabout.
Leading The FA’s drive will be Reds v Blues ambassador Fabrice Muamba. The 26-year-old has supported The FA’s grassroots work since his cardiac arrest on the pitch in November 2012 forced him to give up the game he had spent his life playing.
Fabrice Muamba said: “Football is a game I love but am no longer able to take part. It is really important for me to spread the word that people should cherish their opportunity to play.
“It doesn’t matter what your background is, football’s simple beauty is that anyone can get involved wherever they are.
“I fully support The FA’s Reds v Blues campaign, especially with the excitement of the World Cup ramping up.
“It would be great to think of kids watching Steven Gerrard and the boys out in Brazil and then rushing outside to play themselves. You’re never too old either so mums and dads should join them.”
Former TOWIE star and England C footballer, Mark Wright, said: “Football has always been one of the biggest passions in my life – from kickabout with my mates to my days playing semi-professional for the likes of Bishop’s Stortford, Fisher Athletic and St Neots Town.
“With the FIFA World Cup taking place this summer, it’s the perfect opportunity for everyone to enjoy playing the nations favourite game. There is no better feeling than getting outside with friends or family and kicking a ball around for a few hours, its brilliant exercise and its great fun. So, I’m encouraging the whole nation to sign up for The FA’s Reds v Blues campaign and play football on 7th June.”
FA Chairman Greg Dyke said: “As someone who still plays football at 66 - when my legs allow it. I am proof anyone can get involved!
“The FA faces big challenges to keep people playing, and we are stepping up our work on the facilities and coaching side – but let’s not forget the most important thing is to get a ball, find some mates and just have a go.
“Reds v Blues will be the perfect time to do just that – especially with excitement building towards the World Cup in Brazil.
“We have 400,000 volunteers up and down the country who give their life to football week in, week out and millions playing – but we know there are many others who love the game and could still play.
“Fans who have forgotten that thrill of scoring a goal or making a tackle, and who could get so much out of taking part.
“Football brings people together, encourages healthy living and is, above all, fun. Everyone should join in with the nation’s favourite game.”