The Scottish FA has launched a new girls-only pilot of the Tesco Bank Football Challenge in a bid to increase the number of girls playing football in Scotland.
Scotland women’s national coach, Anna Signeul, was at the Linlithgow School this month to see primary three pupils kicking-off the programme.
The girls will take part in three months of coaching and come together for a festival at the end of the challenge.
The programme uses fun football opportunities to encourage girls to see physical activity as a positive part of their lifestyle from a young age.
Only 48% of girls aged 13-15 in Scotland met official guidelines in 2011 for physical activity - 60 minutes per day - compared to 69% of boys at the same age (Source: Scottish Health Survey 2011).
The Tesco Bank Football Challenge is a four-year community programme run in partnership with the Scottish FA. The project introduces football to Primary two and Primary three children - six to eight-year-olds - across Scotland to help engage them in a healthy and active lifestyle.
More than 50,000 children have now benefited from the Scottish FA’s flagship participation programme, which was recognised by UEFA, winning a silver grassroots award last season.
Anna Signeul, Scotland women's national coach, said: “In my role, I want to see as many girls as possible playing the game, and at this age group, the most important thing is that girls see how much fun football can be.
"The aim of the programme is to encourage girls to get used to taking part in regular activity, and spark an enthusiasm for football in particular.
"Women's football is growing in Scotland, and it was fantastic to see more young girls taking their first steps in the game today.”
A link with the girls section of local club Linlithgow Rose - whose website is powered by Club Website - has been established with the school with the aim of introducing the girls on the programme to further football opportunities.
Signeul added: “The school link with the local club has huge potential as it will offer the girls the chance to play football more often as they get older.
"You can see from today just how much the girls have loved the experience.”
Linda Simpson, head teacher of Low Port Primary School, said: “I think this new pilot programme is an excellent opportunity for the children to be able to pursue football at this early stage.
“I think they will thoroughly enjoy the programme and, hopefully, will take their love of football further in the future.”
Seven-year-old Cristina Armstrong, who plays at local club Linlithgow Rose, said: “I think this is a great chance for girls to play football at our age.
“I love playing football and hope more and more girls start playing after joining this programme.”
Adele Mills, Community Investment Manager at Tesco Bank added: “The Tesco Bank Football Challenge continues to be a huge success and now the programme is established we are keen for it to develop and evolve.
"The introduction of a pilot girls’ scheme is a great way to do this and will hopefully result in findings that can improve levels of participation in sport amongst girls.”