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'PL Schools Tournament has boosted girls football'

1 Jun 2017
Premier League Schools Tournament 2017, Sunderland v Swansea City

St Bede's Catholic School in County Durham have felt the benefit of reaching national competition two years running

It was a day to remember for schoolchildren across England and Wales when they took part in the 12th annual Premier League Schools Tournament at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge last week.

For St Bede's Catholic Comprehensive from County Durham the day was extra special, as they had the honour of returning to the event as reigning champions having won the Under-13 girls tournament for Sunderland's Foundation of Lightat Goodison Park last year.

And that victory in 2016 has certainly made a big impact at the school, one of the Foundation of Light's satellite clubs for the Premier League Girls Football programme.

See: PL Schools Tournament 2017 gallery

"It put us on the map," says St Bede's PE teacher Gemma Brown. "The PL Schools Tournament has inspired the girls, they still talk about last year to this day.

"The Sunderland's ladies team presented them with the trophy, so it was not just the girls in the team who were affected, it was the whole school.

"We now get 25 players down to the girls football club after school. When I first started six years ago, I used to struggle to get kids sometimes.

"New girls joined the team because of what happened and our after-school team is getting bigger because they want that too, it shows them what is out there.

St Bede's Catholic Comprehensive School, PL Schools Tournament 2016
St Bede's Catholic Comprehensive School claimed victory for Sunderland in the PL Schools Tournament in 2016

"It's opportunities like the Schools Tournament that help inspire young people to take upon the sport. It's had a really positive impact."

St Bede's were one of 1,400 schools to take part in this year's competition, playing in regional tournaments for the right to represent the 20 Premier League clubs in Under-11 mixed and Under-13 girls categories on finals day at Stamford Bridge.

See: PL Schools Tournament has been a life-changer

The 40 schools who qualified for the final at the home of Premier League champions experienced life as a top-flight footballer, visiting the home dressing room, wearing their club's kit and walking out of the tunnel while cameras from BBC Match of the Day Kickabout filmed the action.

"On the way down to the event the girls said they didn't care what happened and that it was an achievement to play on that pitch," Gemma adds. "They just went out to enjoy it.

"It teaches them so many good qualities, such as discipline, not just in sport but school as well. Their confidence shines."

Highlights from the Premier League Schools Tournament will be shown on MOTD Kickabout on Saturday, 3 June from 7.45am.

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