Emirates Stadium was the destination for a very special tournament last week when the annual Premier League Schools Tournament arrived in north London.
The 40 teams competing at the Gunners’ home were all winners of local tournaments organised by each Barclays Premier League club for schools in their area. The two lucky schools representing Arsenal were Hanover Primary School in Islington (U11 Mixed), who won a tightly contested final against New North Community School to earn the right to follow in the footsteps of their Arsenal heroes.
Mossbourne Academy in Hackney (U13 Girls) who won a closely-fought contest on penalties to earn their place at Emirates Stadium.
Prior to last week’s tournament, both Arsenal representative teams were given a chance to visit Arsenal’s London Colney Training Centre. where they were given some top advice from midfielder, Mikel Arteta.
On the pitch, the Arsenal teams did themselves proud but eventually missed out on a share of the honours – Fulham (Corpus Christi Primary School) saw off the challenge of Tottenham Hotspur (Rhodes Avenue Primary School) in an entertaining Under-11 final, bringing to an end a nationwide tournament that began back in August and featured a record entry of more than 1,000 schools and 8,000 players.
Wigan Athletic (St Peter’s Catholic High School) were triumphant in the Under-13 girls’ tournament, meanwhile, winning nerve-wracking penalty shoot-outs in both the semi-final against Aston Villa (Stratford Upon Avon High School) and the final against Blackburn Rovers (St Bede’s College).
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore, who presented the trophies at the end of the day alongside Arsenal Ladies’ forward, Kim Little, said: “The Premier League gets ever more global as we know. There are more people watching in more countries, there are more players from overseas countries, but the clubs also work very, very hard at staying close to their communities and tournaments like this are a very important part of that.”
All participating teams got to wear their Club's kit, walk out of the Players' Tunnel to the sound of the Premier League’s official anthem and have their matches officiated by six Premier League referees.
One of those was Phil Dowd who oversaw the FA Cup Final at Wembley just four days earlier.
"It’s a bit more relaxed here," Dowd said. "The kids were really, really well behaved. I didn’t have to give any red or yellow cards, so no reports for me to write!"
Talking about the impact of the tournament, the Premier League’s Head of Community Development, Simon Morgan added: “[This is] the culmination of what our clubs do day in, day out, which is promoting football within their local communities. The whole point of this is promoting football participation and hopefully giving these youngsters a lifelong love of football so they want to keep playing when they’re older in their various cities and towns across the country.”Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 15 May 2012