Men and women of all abilities over the age of 30 are being given more opportunities to play football thanks to an initiative in Northern Ireland, which is hosting the current European WU19 finals.
Age need not be a barrier to playing football for older players in Northern Ireland thanks to an initiative from the Irish Football Association (IFA).
The Back in the Game programme aims to use football as vehicle to provide men over the age of 35 and women over 30, of all levels of ability, the opportunity to re-engage with the sport in their local communities.
IFA Grassroots Development Manager Ian Stewart explained: “I came up with the name ‘Back in the Game’ because of a conversation I had with one of the players about me, as an ex-player, on why didn’t I get back into the game, so I took that phrase and used it for the programme.
“The aim is to get men and women to get active by playing football and we use that as a vehicle to get them together socially as well.”
The scheme started with the help of UEFA funding in 2016 and has grown from six teams to as many as 2,000 players taking part in 20 regional seven-a-side festivals throughout Northern Ireland in 2017. The IFA are confident that this figure could grow to as many as 10,000 players within the next five years.
“UEFA helped us last year to kick-start the programme,” added Stewart. “That paid for facilities and a lot of that money also went towards buying kits and patches for the kits.”