Hundreds of children from across England and Wales this week had an experience that will live long in their memory at the latest Premier League Primary Stars Football Tournament.
Being held for the first time since 2019 because of the Coronavirus pandemic, an expanded competition featured two days of football at Vicarage Road, the home of Watford FC.
The tournament is the highlight of the PL Primary Stars programme, which is delivered by 105 professional football clubs and inspires children in more than 18,000 schools.
All participating players had the full Premier League matchday experience, coming out of the tunnel to the competition's anthem, playing on the pitch and being refereed by Select Group match officials.
Some kids even arrived in their clubs' first-team coaches.
There was another surprise as Watford defender Christian Kabasele showed his support by watching the day one matches and signing autographs.
"Football is a game that everyone can enjoy and has the potential to empower and inspire people in their everyday lives," said Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters.
"I have no doubt that each of the players is an inspiration to other young people in their communities, and they should be incredibly proud of the hard work, effort and skill they have shown to reach the competition and compete on a Premier League pitch in their team's kit."
They didn’t get the trophy they wanted but safe to say that they had a great time at @PLCommunities @EFLTrust #PLPrimaryStars Finals!— West Ham United Foundation (@WHUFoundation) May 18, 2022
Proud of all their efforts - well done @sthelensjun girls! 👏 ⚒ pic.twitter.com/MS4I5REKoq
More than 2,300 schools entered qualifying tournaments for the right to represent their Premier League, EFL or National League clubs over the two days.
On Tuesday, 40 schools representing the 20 Premier League clubs took part in Under-11 Mixed and Under-11 Girls competitions.
Congratulations to @HoneywellJnr U11 mixed team! Out of 768 schools that entered, they have reached the final of the #PLPrimaryStars tournament. 👏— Chelsea Foundation (@CFCFoundation) May 17, 2022
They will play @PalaceForLife in the final.
Well done, everyone! 🤩 pic.twitter.com/1Yh2Pgf4bv
Brentford, taking part in the tournament for the first time, claimed the U11 Girls crown when Collis Primary from Teddington (pictured above) won the final against Newcastle United's Valley Gardens Middle School, who had received support from Sky Sports News presenters.
Our @PLCommunities teams are representing #NUFC in the #PLPrimaryStars Football Tournament National Finals at Vicarage Road this week ⚽️🙌@PeteGravesTV and @TomWhiteMedia have all the latest via @SkySportsNews 📺@MiddleOvingham | @PrimaryPont | @ValleyGardensNT pic.twitter.com/m7RjnMStBG— Newcastle United Foundation (@NU_Foundation) May 17, 2022
Twenty schools representing seven Premier League teams as well as EFL and National League clubs, such as York City, Preston North End, Bristol Rovers, Burton Albion and Crewe Alexandra, played in the inaugural Premier League Primary Stars National Girls Tournament the following day.
What a group we have here!! From coaches to players to the amazing travelling support, this team is special❤️— Altrincham FC Community Sports (@AFC_Comm_Sports) May 18, 2022
An unforgettable experience!
1,200 teams entered and we are in the top 2👏#PLPrimaryStars @PLCommunities @BowdonCS @altrinchamfc pic.twitter.com/HjklCYvqSF