Karen Carney encouraged Utilita Kids and Girls Cup participants to relish the joy of playing football at the competition’s official launch at The Valley.
A former England international with a career under her belt that spanned almost two decades, Carney knows a thing or two about playing on the biggest stage of all, but she urged players to set aside any pressures and enjoy the experience.
“When you have fun and you’re smiling, everything is so much easier, and you play your best or you work your best,” she explained. “There should never be any pressure. It’s a joy to play football and it’s a joy to be with your friends to grow together as a community.
“It was a really good session. The kids looked like they had a lot of fun and I know I did, I’m beaming!
“I did local sessions in my community and it was really important. Probably my fondest memories growing up were here because that’s where you learn your fundamental skills and where you grow the most. That’s probably why I enjoyed it so much and the kids looked like they enjoyed it.”
She also highlighted the beneficial effects of sport to her own wellbeing, citing the career paths of Manchester United’s Scott McTominay and Crystal Palace’s Will Hughes, who went on to win the tournament.
”Physical health and mental health are massive,” she said. “It’s a great tournament. A lot of players have come through it like McTominay and Hughes which is pretty awesome. Now, having a tournament for kids and girls is really cool. It’s important for communities for kids to get out there again.”
The tournament, which culminates in four Finals under the arches at Wembley Stadium, presents the opportunity for kids and girls to play in front of fans in the country’s national stadium; an occasion which Carney strongly encouraged participants to grab with both hands.
“Wembley is the home of football,” she noted. “Every person wants to play there, male or female, or boy or girl. The opportunity is one you can’t turn down. It’s a great Final to strive to be in.”