To mark the initial success of the £1.5 million Futsal project, around 75 young men and women from Ireland will visit Bangor on May 26 to play against local teams and students from Wales’s first Futsal hub, which has been running at Llangefni on Anglesey since autumn last year.
Organisers hope the scheme will now build on its initial success and expand across the North West Wales area during the next year.
North Wales Futsal project officer Tony Maguire says the project has already helped a number of students in the area to find employment.
“We have a couple of lads who had to drop out because they had found jobs while on the scheme.
“And we have just had another two youngsters gain their coaching accreditation and they are looking to set up on their own coaching other players.
“We are delighted to welcome the Irish hubs to Wales for this visit. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate what has been achieved so far and an excellent chance to raise the profile of our project.”
Futsal is a five-a-side version of football which the scheme uses to engage young people. The programme is led by the Football Association of Ireland in collaboration with the Welsh Football Trust (WFT) and is backed with £1m from the European Regional Development Fund under the Ireland Wales Cross Border Programme.
As well as honing football and coaching skills, the 12-week courses cover subjects such as literacy and numeracy, First Aid, child protection, preparation for work, healthy eating and CV writing.
“We make sure they are doing things they are interested in. Everything they do, whether it is numeracy, or whatever, has a footballing theme.
“We are using football as a tool to attract young people. What we want to do is improve their employability. By the end of the course the students have picked up nine or 10 qualifications.”
Having enjoyed initial success at Llangefni, the scheme is now poised to spread across North West Wales. Two additional hubs are set to open this September, with another two planned next year, bringing the Welsh total to five hubs.
It is hoped the hubs will forge strong links with local football clubs, which will benefit the teams by providing coaches and offer participants experience and employment opportunities.
Deputy Minister for European Programmes, Alun Davies, said:
“I am pleased to hear that this European-funded initiative is providing a platform for young people to gain vital skills and practical help to ensure their future success.”
The Ireland Wales Cross Border programme is led by the Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly (SERA) in Ireland in partnership with the Welsh Government. It is aimed at supporting collaborative projects to boost skills and economic growth.