On 5th November, Tigers JFC and FC Redwing joined forces to host the biggest Weetabix Wildcats Football Festival in Essex!
There were 130 young girls that took part in the Weetabix Wildcats Football Festival at the Brittons Academy School in Rainham. FC Redwing and Tigers JFC are two of the biggest Wildcat Providers in Essex and came together to provide an excellent event that allowed the young girls to come and participate in football. The attendance is a firm indicator that the women’s game is continuing to grow and events like this one will only increase the growth of the game.
The day ran from 9:30am to 12 o’clock noon and started off with a fun warm up game to get everyone involved and ready for the day. There were then 3 round robin tournaments that were split by age, allowing the girls to play games against each other.
FC Redwing and Tigers JFC are also both sister clubs of West Ham United Women’s Football Club and 3 of their players attended the day. Mackenzie Arnold, Lucy Parker and Emma Snerle offered the players words of encouragement from the sidelines and also presented all participants with a medal, during and awards ceremony after the session. The young girls were also provided with Essex FA goody bags as a thank you for attending.
Mark Gordon, Head of Academy at FC Redwing, and Keith Di Palma, Chairman of Tigers JFC and Wildcats Co-ordinator, were fundamental in putting the event together. They joined forces to provide one of the biggest Wildcats sessions for the young girls to enjoy and get involved with.
Mark has been coaching and volunteering at Redwing FC since 2015. He is hugely passionate about the game and creating fun, safe and inclusive environments For All at FC Redwing.
“I like to see the kids having fun and if I can make them have fun and fall in love with the game that I love and I’m truly passionate about, my job is done.”
He wanted to help create a day that could inspire and allow the girls to enjoy themselves and was delighted with how the day went.
“I thought it would be cool. The most important thing was to inspire the girls and do something really cool for them, something a bit different. Most of the girls in the Wildcats don’t play regular games. So the ability to be in a different environment playing against girls they don’t know, but also for them to have fun was an important factor in the Festival.”
“Especially as we knew the West Ham players were coming. You only have to look at the queue to get photos taken with Emma, Mackenzie and Lucy, for the girls it was the highlight of the day”
This is Keith’s 24th season within the grassroots game and with Tigers JFC. He has seen the club grow from 5 teams to 54 this season including 18 female teams, but their female pathway doesn’t stop there. They are also a strong Weetabix Wildcats provider, transitioning their Tigers Development Centre in a Weetabix Wildcats 2 years ago where it continues to go from strength to strength.
Keith was thrilled with how the Festival went and was glad to see everyone enjoying themselves.
“It went so smoothly it was unbelievable, West Ham Women turned up, that gave everyone a little boost. It was such a success, we were over the moon with it”
“The highlight was just seeing so many girls playing football together enjoying themselves”
There were over 35 volunteers on the day helping to ensure the day went smoothly, including 16 Tiger JFC Futures who helped to coach the teams. Futures is a Tigers JFC London Sport Award winning scheme that helps players develop their coaching and refereeing skills and gain qualifications along the way. Keith is extremely proud of this scheme.
“We have over 30 Futures involved with the club now. Futures is giving them a steppingstone and the confidence to go to university”
Ellie Finneran, Football Development Officer at the Essex FA, attended the event and agreed that the day was an absolute success.
“The Weetabix Wildcats Football Festival hosted by Keith and Mark was a great success, providing a fun and safe environment for young girls to make friends, build confidence and get active.”
“On the day there were smiles all round from the girls. The success of this event shows the brilliant work these two clubs and their volunteers do”
“It was great to have some of the West Ham United players there. The experience of meeting their idols and role models in the game will create core memories for these girls that they will never forget, ultimately inspiring the next generation of footballers.”
A big thank you to Tigers JFC, FC Redwing and West Ham United Women for helping to put on a fantastic Festival and providing the young girls the opportunity to play football and most importantly have fun!