Monday 08 April 2013
Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey passed on advice and football tips as he met the school that will be proudly representing the Gunners at this year’s Premier League Schools Tournament.
The 22-year-old spent the afternoon with the mixed under-11 team from Canonbury Junior School in Islington, taking part in a question and answer session as well shooting practice and a five-a-side match.
Canonbury won the right to take part in the Schools Finals after coming through a 16-team qualifying tournament run by the Arsenal Foundation in February and their reward is a visit to Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium to take on schools representing the 19 other Premier League teams on 9 May. Stoke Newington School will represent Arsenal in the Under-13s girls' competition.
"It was amazing to meet someone so inspirational and such a big name in sport"
"I enjoyed it," Ramsey told premierleague.com. "It was great getting involved and seeing the good work that goes on. The way that these kids are playing and enjoying themselves and feeling a part of something is pleasing.
"It's good to get away from football sometimes and to give something back. There are some really gifted players in that team."
The event, held at St Mary Magdalene Academy in Holloway, gave the Canonbury team the opportunity to talk and train with one of their Gunners heroes.
Ramsey was grilled by the youngsters on subjects such as who was his best friend at Arsenal, why he wanted to play for the Gunners, which player he would like to sign apart from Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi and which of his team-mates takes the longest in the shower.
He then gave hints as he laid the ball off for shooting practice before going in goal as the youngsters played a match, while there was time afterwards for photographs and autograph signing.
"It was amazing to meet someone so inspirational and such a big name in sport," said 11-year-old Arsenal fan Raphael Clarke-Hall. “It makes me want to be like him."
Canonbury School sports coach Karl Beckford added: "You couldn’t have asked for much more. We didn't know how involved Aaron was going to be so the fact that he was involved as much as he was has been really, really good. I can’t praise him enough."
The draw for the Schools Tournament was recently made by Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson with the teams drawn in four groups of five. Arsenal will play schools representing Swansea City, Wigan Athletic, Southampton and Chelsea.
"We have got a good chance," added Rafael. "We have got a massive amount of spirit because it was really tense in the group stage, we almost didn’t get through. That got us fired up. We had to win the last match of the group stage to get through and everyone was so happy when we did. We are now really excited.
"I wish that I had something like this when I was young"
"The Schools Tournament is going to be amazing. I can’t believe that I am going to a huge stadium, it’s going to be such an occasion."
This year is the eighth running of the Schools Tournament, in which every Barclays Premier League club hosts their own qualifying event to determine which schools will represent them in the Under-11 mixed and Under-13 girls' categories at the finals.
Last year the competition took place at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium with Corpus Christi Catholic Primary School, representing Fulham, winning the U11 event while Wigan Athletic representatives St Peter’s Catholic High School triumphed in the U13 tournament.
And Beckford said the experience of playing at Anfield this year will stay with the youngsters for years to come.
"There are not many people who can say they have played at Anfield,” he said. “It’s a big competition and they have done so well to be there so for them to play there at their age, it’s going to be a massive experience. It’s going to stay with them for life. I know it will for me.
"We played the qualifying tournament without telling them what would happen if they won it. When I told them they didn’t believe me. I am sure when it does come, they are going to love it.
"It seems like an amazing tournament and I wish that I had something like this when I was young. They are really, really lucky."
Aaron Ramsey took part in the training session with Canonbury Primary School for Disney XD’s Aim High on Goalmouth, which goes out each Thursday at 5:30pm BST.
Premierleague.com will update you with the schools representing the 20 clubs. You can follow news on Twitter with hashtag #plschools.