Olympic gold medallist meets Watford FC representatives at embassy

Discussing their school sports plans with Olympic champion Sally Gunnell were Watford Football Club

Discussing their school sports plans with Olympic champion Sally Gunnell were Watford Football Club representatives, from left, Alan McTavish, Rob Clarke, Almen Abdi and Rob Smith. Photo courtesy of www.jennysmithphotography.co.uk - Credit: www.jennysmithphotography.co.uk

Watford Football Club, which trains in London Colney, hopes to roll out a pilot programme to encourage more youngsters to take up sport throughout St Albans.

Representatives of the Hornets, who narrowly missed out on promotion last season, denying fans the chance to see their team in the Premier League again, met Olympic champion Sally Gunnell at a reception in London.

Midfielder Almen Abdi was among those rubbing shoulders with the Ambassador of Italy and dignitaries at the Italian Embassy on Wednesday (13).

The club, taken over last year by Udinese and Granada Italian owners, the Pozzo family, spoke about its plans to shortly launch a pilot project, financially backed by Ferrero.

The Italian family-owned group, which manufactures chocolate and confectionery and has a base in Watford, hosted the reception at the embassy.

Watford FC’s community sports and education trust director Rob Smith explained that the club is launching the project initially at schools in Watford, with hopes it will be rolled out into neighbouring St Albans and elsewhere in the Home Counties.

The project uses sports as an educational tool.

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If the pilot is successful, the school-based scheme would run alongside the club’s community-based “socially inclusive” programme ‘Onside’ which has been operating throughout the district for the past five years.

The football-based programme is supported by St Albans district council and aimed at children aged between eight and 16 years who may not normally have the chance to enjoy a game of footie, and are invited to “turn up and play” at various venues.

Sally Gunnell spoke at the reception about the importance of introducing children to a variety of sports from a young age.

The athlete won the 400 metre hurdles at the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992, and is the only woman to have held the European, World, Commonwealth and Olympic 400m hurdles title at the same time.

Sally said it was vital that parents encouraged their children to be active.

She added: “I find it quite scary that there are kids who cannot catch a ball or run around a field.”

The mum-of-three recommended parents to not encourage children to specialise in a particular sport until they reached the age of 12 or 13.

She also highlighted the importance of team sport, saying it taught youngsters life skills and how to cope in a competitive environment.