IT’S GOOD to be back! That was the over-riding feeling at the Suffolk FA 2022 Grassroots Festival.
Around 170 teams took part in the two-day festival at Whitton United FC on the outskirts of Ipswich on Saturday and Sunday after a two-year hiatus due to Covid.
The festival featured boys’ and girls’ teams from under-7s up to under-16s plus an adult disability festival.
The festival was supported by David Goldsmith and Sam Murray, who are Conservative County Councillors for Whitehouse and Whitton, with both contributing £1,500 through the county council’s locality budget.
Spectators watching at the Suffolk FA Grassroots Festival on Sunday. Main photograph: Holbrook Hornets (yellow shirts) take on Ransomes Sports (red shirts) in the U16s Festival on Sunday.
Cllr Goldsmith said: “When we were first asked to get involved, I thought it would be a great way of getting the community to come together.
“This is the biggest event I have been involved with and my thanks go to Whitton United for hosting it and all the time their volunteers have given to make it happen along with the Suffolk FA staff.”
Cllr Murray said: “I used to follow women’s football a lot but became disillusioned by the fact that it didn’t attract any publicity.
“Being able to see so many girls playing and how inclusive the festival is has rekindled my enthusiasm.
“There has been a real feelgood factor around the festival and you wouldn’t know what we have been through with Covid in the last two years.”
Ipswich Valley Rangers Blue (blue & white hooped shirts) take on Felixstowe & Walton United (red & white striped shirts) in the Girls' U13 Festival at the Suffolk FA Grassroots Festival on Sunday.
Suffolk FA Football Development Officer James Morley, who organised the festival, said: “It was great to bring the festival back to Whitton United for a third time after a two-year break due to Covid.
“We picked up where we left off in 2019, working closely with the club, and special thanks go to Maxine Barnes of Whitton United without whose help it would not have been possible.
“A massive thank you also to Councillors Sam Murray and David Goldsmith, as without their support the festival would not have been able to go ahead.
“To see them here both days from start to finish and being involved in their local community has been brilliant.
“Finally, thank you to everyone who attended the festival over the course of the weekend and to see so many smiling faces was a real joy and the reason why we do what do.”
Maxine Barnes, who is Whitton United Youth Secretary, said: “I would like to thank both Councillors Murray and Goldsmith and the Suffolk FA staff for helping to make it such a great event.
“As much as there is a lot of hard work that goes into putting on the festival, we love hosting it and hope the children have all had a great weekend.”
Dr Dan Poulter, who is MP for Central Suffolk & North Ipswich, attended on the Saturday, while local charity Boots2Africa collected kit and boots donated by the public and Socker Share, a charity that sends football socks to children in underprivileged countries, were also present both days.
Grassroots Festival organiser James Morley (centre) with Suffolk FA Chair Phil Lawler (left) and Iain Finch (right) of charity Boots2Africa display some of the boots and kit collected over the weekend.