Young footballers from across Manchester today (Wednesday 20 Feb 08) kicked off a 3v3 football competition that will involve more than 600 players.
The competition will culminate in 130 of them winning a trip to the UEFA Cup Final 2008 at the City of Manchester Stadium in May.
Boys and girls from primary and secondary schools are taking part in the 3v3 Street Challenge tournament of fast and furious games of football.
Teams are made up of a manager and five players but only three are on the pitch at a time. There are competitions for primary school boys and primary school girls, for disabled youngsters, and for children aged 10 to 16 who take part in the Streetlife Football social inclusion programme run by the Manchester City Council. Each competition has heats for teams from central, north and south Manchester.
The first heats of the competition kicked off at Wright Robinson Sports College in Gorton today (Wednesday 20 February 2008) and more matches will be played at sites throughout the city in March, April and May.
Some of the heats and the final will be played in a special inflatable arena 12 metres by 6 metres at sites across the city.
These fantastic few months of football will finish with the Grand Final in Cathedral Gardens in the city centre on 14 May when fans from across Europe will be in town to enjoy the atmosphere while supporting our home-grown football stars of the future.
Every member of all the teams that win through to the final stages - a total of 130 youngsters - will also go to the UEFA Cup Final at the City of Manchester Stadium that evening.
Added to this will be a cheerleading competition for secondary school girls. Eight secondary schools in east Manchester will receive eight weeks of cheerleading coaching from qualified dance tutors. The cheerleading squads will be made up of 15 girls from years 10 and 11.
The schools will then take part in a competition at Whalley Range High School, where the top two teams will go on to represent the city in the centre circle activity on the pitch at the opening ceremony for the UEFA Cup Final 2008 itself.
Councillor Mike Kane, Manchester City Council's Executive Member for Arts and Leisure, said: "The 3v3 tournament will be great fun for the young people involved and will be a real treat for those who watch the action.
"The chance of going to the UEFA Cup Final 2008 is a big incentive for all the teams to win through to the final stages of the competition and it's wonderful that so many youngsters will be able to go along and share in the fantastic spectacle of a professional match involving two of the top teams in European football.
"The 3v3 tournament is just one of the ways that local communities will share in and benefit from the UEFA Cup Final and the other top-level events that make up a fabulous sporting year as part of Manchester World Sport 2008."
More than 2,500 young people take part in football programmes run by the Council's Sports Development team each year. The aim of the 3v3 competition is to develop individual skills and teamwork, promote fair play and football for all, and ultimately to highlight that football can be played anywhere and by anyone.
For more information on the UEFA Cup Final 2008 visit http://www.uefa.com/
and for more on Manchester World Sport 08, including three World Championship events, visit http://www.manchesterworldsport08.com/
Martin Hellewell, tel 0161 234 3729