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How Strand on the Green are flying flag for Brentford

By Mark Orlovac 11 Jun 2024
Strand on the Green, team shot, PL Primary Stars

Find out how qualifying for Wednesday's Premier League Primary Stars football tournament impacted a primary school in West London

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Hundreds of children from across the country are gathering at Brentford FC's Gtech Community Stadium on Wednesday for a once-in-a-lifetime experience as they compete in the latest Premier League Primary Stars football tournament.

Over the last few months, thousands of children have taken part in regional tournaments for the chance to represent their local Premier League club in Under-11s girls and mixed team competitions.

The tournament is one of the competition elements of the Premier League Primary Stars education programme.

For those schools who have qualified for the national finals, their dreams will come true as they experience life as a Premier League footballer for a day.

They will wear their club's kit, play on a top-flight pitch, walk out of the tunnel to the Premier League anthem and will compete in matches refereed by Premier League, EFL and WSL officials. 

One of those schools taking part is Strand on the Green Junior in Chiswick, who have the honour of representing hosts Brentford. This is their story.

Strand on the Green Junior School (Chiswick)

Located in the shadow of the Gtech Community Stadium, Strand on the Green will travel only half a mile to represent Brentford on home soil.

Most of the players have been together as a team since they were in Year 3, and their journey to today's tournament has been a long, and sometimes frustrating, one.

"I've been with this team since I joined the school when they were in Year 3," says PE teacher Dexter Bentley.

Charlie

"I have a season ticket for Brentford and representing the club I support, at our home ground, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's going to be amazing taking part in this with my friends. All the Premier League players that have walked out of that tunnel before and now we're doing it. It's going to be very special. We've come a long way, we've lost a few finals, but the disappointments we had before had an impact... we didn't want that feeling again."

Strand on the Green, Premier League Primary Stars, Charlie

"We've finished runners-up in quite a few tournaments and there's been a lot of emotions, but they've grown as a team. It's been brilliant to see."

That character and spirit was certainly put to the test when Strand on the Green took part in Brentford's qualifying tournament.

"The children played with their hearts, they were superb," Dexter recalls. "The final was so tense! We won 2-0 and when the final whistle went, we all went a little crazy. We were so happy, so proud.

"They have learnt so much through this... teamwork, resilience, being respectful towards themselves and understanding that process of winning and losing.

Supo

"I have been a part of this team since Year 4. Qualifying was extremely difficult and the final was very tense. When the final whistle went, I was just so happy. Two years ago, I never thought I would be playing at Brentford. I'm really excited about the PL Primary Stars tournament. I can't believe it. I can't wait to take on teams from across the country. I've learned that football is not a one-player game, you can't just go past everyone. I used to end up losing the ball. Now I pass to my team-mates and we end up winning. It's so special that I am doing this with all of my friends."

Strand on the Green, Premier League Primary Stars, Supo

"You're sad when you lose, but they matured to overcome those hurdles. To then go on to play on the pitch at Brentford is just fantastic."

While the players were battling to qualifying, back at Strand on the Green, teachers and pupils were eagerly awaiting news of how the team were getting on.

"When we got the final score, the news rippled around the school," says PE lead, Emily Smith-Stevenson. "We were teaching Year 3 PE at the time and we were all completely overexcited.

"It was the perfect time for us to explain to these younger kids what the team has achieved. They could see our excitement and passion for it."

Qualifying for the tournament has not only had an impact on the youngsters taking part, it is also inspiring others throughout the school.

Strand on the Green, PL Primary Stars

"This team are so resilient," adds Emily. "At the school we have Strand values - determination, resilience, respect - and they've shown those strong values from the start.

"Younger pupils can see their achievements, can see what's possible. They definitely look up to them.

"Having children excelling in different areas is so inspiring for everyone. That's the power of sport."

And as for now, Strand on the Green's team are focused on enjoying a special occasion at the Gtech Community Stadium, which celebrates the work that Premier League Primary Stars carries out all year round.

Zubeyr

"To qualify for the Premier League Primary Stars tournament was really overwhelming. I just fell to the floor. I was so, so happy. Just before the final we were told what the prize would be, that we would be playing at a Premier League stadium. It's going to be really exciting. When I'm walking down the tunnel it's going to be a special moment, probably the proudest moment of my life. Not many people have the chance to do this. I've changed a lot. I'm a better footballer and in other ways too. Before this I'd be wondering what's the point in going to a tournament, we're going to lose. But since we won the qualifying rounds, my motivation has changed."

Strand on the Green, Premier League Primary Stars, Zubeyr

"It's going to be a really proud day," says Emily. "It's big for the players, the school and the PE team.

"Seeing them play at the Gtech, I'm going to be as overwhelmed as the kids are. I will try to take it all in.

"It's hard to find the words to describe what it is going to be like. It will be emotional even before we start playing.

"When they walk out with the Brentford kit, in a fantastic atmosphere, it will be then they realise what they have done. They will have nerves, but they will also be thinking, 'We've got this.'"

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