Teams representing AFC Wimbledon and Mansfield Town will compete for the Kinder+Sport Football League Kids Cup this afternoon.Before today’s Sky Bet League 2 Play-Off Final, 16 young footballers will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of playing on the hallowed turf as part of the Kinder+Sport Football League Kids Cup.
The competition, for both boys and girls aged under 11, is organised on behalf of The Football League by The Football League Trust. Each of the 72 Football League clubs run a tournament for their local schools, with the winners earning the right to represent their club and play in their colours on the road to Wembley.
The 72 teams are arranged into the three divisions and then split into Northern and Southern sections – with the two regional winners from each division playing at Wembley before the respective play-off final. Over 16,000 children took part in the group stages of the competition this season –the second successive year participation has grown.
The route to Wembley
Wearing the colours of AFC Wimbledon today will be Cleves School, who dominated their local final by scoring 20 goals and only conceding one to earn the right to represent the Dons. The group stages of the southern regional finals saw the Dons side neck-and-neck with Crawley Town, with both teams winning six of their seven games and fighting out a pulsating 4-4 draw when they met each other.
With a superior goal difference, the Dons topped the group and met Dagenham & Redbridge in the semi-final – a game which they comfortably won 5-1. That set up a final with last year’s winners Portsmouth. The Dons held their nerve to win a very tense game 2-1 and book their day at Wembley.
Mansfield Town are represented by Samuel Barlow School today, whose journey to Wembley began back in November. They progressed through the stages of a tough local competition, winning the final 1-0 in a game that was played at Field Mill during half-time of the Stags’ first team game with Luton Town. That earned them the right to be the Mansfield Town representatives in the competition and put them into the northern regional finals in March, where they made the trip to Morecambe.
They topped their group thanks to wins against Notts County, Hartlepool United and Northampton Town. A semi-final win over Accrington Stanley booked a place in the final against hosts Morecambe. The final was a cagey, tense affair and nothing could separate the teams in normal time. The Stags side got the only goal of the game in extra-time to clinch their dream day at the national stadium.
Getting kids moving
The Football League Kids Cup, alongside the Girls Cup for under 13’s, is sponsored by Ferrero’s Kinder+Sport programme. Encouraging children to be physically active and embrace the joy of moving is one of Ferrero’s key aims and core corporate social responsibility principles, both in the UK and globally. The Kinder+Sport programme is designed to promote active lifestyles through dynamic play and sports among children and their families, and has reached 15 million children in 27 countries to date.
In the UK, Kinder+Sport includes a number of initiatives. The Kinder+Sport Move and Learn programme is a national, school-based education programme delivered in partnership with The Football League Trust that helps children learn about the importance of a balanced diet and regular physical activity. Ferrero also partners with The Football League Trust to deliver two more national competitions, the Kinder+Sport Futsal Cup for the under-16 age group, and the Kinder+Sport Challenge Cup for the under-18s group.
Both competitions encourage children to get involved with sport and physical activity, whilst giving them a unique opportunity to play at football stadiums. Overall, in the academic year 2015/16, Kinder+Sport together with The Football League Trust will reach more than 47,000 children, helping them to be more active and learn about the benefits of an active lifestyle.
Meet the teams:
AFC Wimbledon — Cleves School
Oliver Matthews (Capt)
Ethan Honour (GK)
Mansfield Town — Samuel Barlow Primary School
Aiden Reader (Capt)
Jack Usher (GK)