Most of us start playing football at school, or at the park with friends from a young age. This, along with watching football on TV or at live games have taught many of us the basic rules of football. There are even a multitude of computer games out there, not to mention the classic table football which spark many people’s interest in the game. But joining a football club with a qualified coach can move us on to that next level. For those who start playing football when they’re young, a talented select few will go on to play professionally, realising their dream job.
Footballers’ are often seen as role models for children, and many aspire to be like their idols Messi, Ronaldo or Sterling. And with many more girls and women playing football, and the success of the women’s England team in the recent FIFA Women's World Cup, there’s no doubt that football will remain the UK’s most popular sport for years to come.
Here are some of the different types of football leagues and clubs to look out for:
- Junior Football: There are many local teams and sessions around for children as young as 2 years of age. There are lots of health benefits for children who start playing football from a young age, as well as learning coordination skills, agility, speed and teamwork. If your child can start learning to play football early, they may have a greater chance of playing football at a high level. The top level of youth football is the Premier Academy League, founded in 1997, which is for all Premier League and Football League clubs that have Academy sides. Then there is the second tier youth league, the Football League Youth Alliance, which was also founded in 1997, in which Football League clubs have Centres of Excellence status. The FA Youth Cup is a nationwide cup competition for Under-18 teams organised by the FA. Over 400 clubs enter the FA Youth Cup each season.
- Women’s Football: The country was in World Cup fever in 2019. With the success of England’s Lionesses and football constantly growing in popularity, there are now an estimated 1.4 million women and girls playing football, making it the nation’s most popular female-team participation sport. Historically, football has been dominated by the boys - but this is all changing. There are now lots of schemes designed to help girls get into football all around the UK, from grassroots to the professional game. Plus more regular football sessions being introduced in schools. So whether you want to be part of the next generation of Lionesses and take to the world stage or just want to play casually, there are lots of opportunities whatever your age, ability or ambitions.
- Disability Football: There are 9.4million people in England with a long-standing limiting disability, illness or condition which equates to 18% of the population – that’s almost one in five. The good news is that there has never been a better time to get involved and play football, whatever your ability. Most disabled footballers, whether juniors or adults, play in what are known as pan-disability clubs or teams. These are teams comprised of footballers with differing impairments, playing together. However, football is also played in each of seven different classifications, all with variations to the standard football association rules. These categories are; blind, partially sighted, deaf and/or hearing impaired, Cerebral Palsy, amputees, learning disability, wheelchair users (powered). You may be an enthusiastic beginner who would just like to have a kick about with your friends. Or you may have ambitions to play competitively in a league, or even for your country. There are now plenty of pathways for you to get in to football, whatever your needs.
Whether you’re playing for fun in the garden with the kids, or you want to play to a higher level, there are many benefits to playing football. Not only is it a fun sport to play that lets you socialise with others, but it is also fantastic for your muscular health, cardiac health, bone strength, your mental state, and so much more. It’s a game that everybody can play, and it can be played pretty much anywhere. All you really need is space and a ball. It is a relatively simple sport to learn and it’s the perfect excuse to get you outdoors.