Palace youngsters enjoy ‘unforgettable’ day at PL Kicks Cup

The University of Manchester’s Wythenshawe Sports Ground hosted the annual Premier League Kicks Cup on 12 April, where 89 teams from 64 professional football clubs, including two from Palace for Life Foundation’s PL Kicks programme, took part in a 6-a-side competition.

Members of the Foundation's girls team at the PL Kicks Cup

The Kicks Cup is the showpiece event for the season-long PL Kicks programme, which has been running since 2006 and engaged over 245,000 young people through 69 professional football clubs.

Two tournaments took place at the same time, with competitions for both under 16 girls and under 16 mixed teams. The Foundation’s two teams made the trip up to Manchester the day before the tournament, taking the opportunity to tour Old Trafford Stadium and get to know their surroundings.

Members of the mixed team arriving at the PL Kicks Cup

Danyaal Iqbal, who competed in the mixed tournament, said:

“This was an amazing trip, as I have never competed in a national competition or been to Manchester. I had a great time and it was a great experience.”

Both the girls and mixed teams made a strong start, winning 1-0 and 4-0 respectively in their opening games. The girls were in fantastic form during the early stages, winning every game without conceding a goal to top the group. They then won a penalty shoot-out to progress to the quarter-finals, where they were defeated on penalties by Swansea.

The girls team in action against QPR

One of the girls who took part, Kiesha Beckford, was delighted to get the opportunity to play in the tournament:

“I just want to say a big thank you to the Palace for Life Foundation for inviting me to play in this amazing tournament in Manchester. I had a great time, made even more special with the trip to Manchester United’s grounds and the tour. I will never forget this!”

There were a number of other activities on the day, including a three-versus-three football game created by former Palace star Yannick Bolasie and a Q&A with rapper Bugzy Malone. Football freestyler Liv Cooke was showing her skills in the #KicksTricks freestyle area, and challenging some of the Kicks players to take her on. Everton winger Bolasie was also on hand to present the winning teams with their medals at the end of the day.

Yannick Bolasie at the PL Kicks Cup

Another member of the mixed team, Tywon Gray, shared his thoughts on the day:

“I have been attending Kicks now for just over three years and I can honestly say this is the best thing I have experienced. I rarely leave Croydon, let alone get the opportunity to go to Manchester, visit Old Trafford and compete against teams across the country in a national competition. I had so much fun and will never forget this experience.”

John Patrick, Community Development Officer at the Foundation, was with the teams at the tournament:

“I look forward to the PL Kicks Cup every year, as it is a such a great competition that brings clubs from all over the country together for one big celebration of football. Young people get to rub shoulders and compete with others in a competitive but fun environment.

The Palace girls team in action against QPR

“The most rewarding thing for me is seeing the smile on our young people’s faces, as they genuinely seem happy and if it wasn’t for the Premier League we couldn’t do what we do. This has been a great experience for many of the young people on this trip as they not only got to travel to another city, but also visit Old Trafford, put on the Crystal Palace kit and represent south London.

“These are once in a lifetime opportunities that I’m sure they will always remember.”