Did you know that Gareth Bale, the world’s most expensive football star, represented Whitchurch High School in Cardiff in the 2003 PlayStation Schools’ Cup? Demonstrating the rich heritage of the grassroots football initiative, the Welsh star’s rise to joining Real Mardrid has been well documented.
Not so well known will be the fact that Bale, known as ‘Bazza’ to his old schoolmates played alongside Wales and the British and Irish Lions rugby Union captain Sam Warburton in the school’s U14 football team. Coached by teacher Nicholas John, the Whitchurch High School team of 2003 finished the PlayStation Schools’ Cup regional round in third place after being knocked out at the semi-final stages. The team was captured in a photograph during the event.
Ten years on, PlayStation’s support of grassroots football is set to get bigger than ever before. In partnership with the English Schools’ FA (ESFA), this season’s PlayStation Schools’ Cup has already helped increase both boys’ and girls’ tournaments for the U12 to U15 secondary school age categories, attracting close to 2,000 schools entries and 100,000 participants throughout England.
With the need to develop more home-grown football talent continuing to be a hot topic, the PlayStation Schools’ Cup aims to help nurture stars of the future, while also creating more opportunities for children to represent their school football team. Previous high profile names that have benefited from competing in ESFA tournaments include Michael Owen, Wes Brown, Chris Smalling, Jermain Defoe, Nicky Butt, Phil Neville and Ryan Giggs.
ESFA Chief Executive, John Read, said: “Both the ESFA and PlayStation have a proven commitment to supporting schools’ football. Our partnership with PlayStation means we have all the ingredients in place to make a major impact at a grassroots level, delivering a professional structure for children to enjoy playing football.”