Tens of thousands of people around the country took part in a weekend of football celebration this month, as the Football Association hosted events to encourage people to get outside and enjoy the nation’s favourite game.
The weekend, called Reds v Blues – marking the classic team colours used most often in the nation’s favourite game – was created to inspire people of all ages and abilities to represent a Red or Blue team before playing football in whatever form they wished.
This ranged from kickabouts in the garden to organised 5-a-side and 11-a-side matches across the country. Scores from all the games that took place over have since been combined, with the red team coming out on top with an emphatic/tight score line of 31,173 v 28,794.
As excitement reached fever pitch just ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, people of all ages and abilities took part in a series of matches – from organised 11-aside matches to informal kickabouts in gardens across England – on Reds v Blues weekend.
As Roy Hodgson and his England team headed from Miami to Rio de Janeiro, the highlight of the Reds v Blues weekend came in Dorset where a beach soccer tournament was hosted by the England beach soccer team, a more than fitting backdrop with the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil on the verge of kicking off.
Also showcased over the weekend was a disability football event at St. George’s Park and an eleven-a-side tournament in Liverpool.
FA Chairman Greg Dyke, Blues team captain Mark Wright and England women’s player Fran Kirby were present at the event on Branksome beach, Dorset. Former reality TV star and England C international Mark Wright even dusted his off his football boots as he took part in a beach soccer match with England’s finest.
Former Arsenal, Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers and England Under-21 midfielder, Fabrice Muamba was joined by former semi-professional player, TV presenter and Heart FM radio host, Wright, as team captains for the Reds and Blues.
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. It was great to see so many people play football over the weekend and I'm delighted my team could get a victory.
“Our goal for this summer is to see 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.”
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 Bishop’s Stortford, Fisher Athletic and St Neots Town.
“With the FIFA World Cup taking place this summer, Reds v Blues was the perfect opportunity for everyone to enjoy playing the nations favourite game. I’m gutted that the blue team didn’t win, but it was great to see so many people playing football again up and down the country."