Hundreds of schoolchildren from the area have taken part in an exciting venture to boost girls football.
More than 250 pupils from County Durham primary schools were at East Durham College in Peterlee for the FA Girls’ Football Festivals, in association with Continental Tyres.
Schools, including St Aidan’s and Clavering, from Hartlepool, Yohden and Seascape, from Horden, Our Lady and Cotsford, from Peterlee, and Sunderland’s Diamond Hill and St Mary’s took part.
Durham midfielder Beth Hepple and world-famous Sunderland Ladies and Republic of Ireland foward Stephanie Roche were there to demonstrate their skills as well as talk to the youngsters.
Roche grew up in Dublin playing football on the street and says events like this can only help the female game grow.
“It’s brilliant for young girls to have somewhere to come and play football and just be active,” said Roche, who became the first female finalist in the 2014 FIFA Puskás Award for the best goal of the year.
“If they get interested now and become players then they may become future stars of the game, there may be a future England player here.
“It’s great the FA and Continental have come together to do stuff like this.
“They are playing with the friends and enjoying football in a fun environment.
“I never had anything like this when I was their age.
“I played football in the street with the boys I grew up with in Shankhill.
“We were always out playing football, it was something around all the time.
“I joined a boys’ team when I was 11, so I went from playing in the street into a boys’ side.
“I was lucky enough to then find a girls’ team, but it’s nice for roadshows like this that the girls can play and the women’s game can only grow.
“They can learn about the game and find a local team to play for if they want.”
Tina Reed, from Durham FA, said the event, part of a national initiative, was a great success.
“It was a good mix of girls who play football and those who don’t,” she said. “There were a lot of activities and everyone had fun.
“There has been a lot of positive feedback from the teachers and hopefully what the children have experienced today will encourage them to play football.”