IT'S THE WEEKEND: Blaenavon Blues AFC is a perfect example of how the beautiful game can unite all ages

South Wales Argus: CT_577_010     The Blaenavon Blues under 6 and under 7s teams training (7778087) CT_577_010 The Blaenavon Blues under 6 and under 7s teams training (7778087)

WITH World Cup fever still gripping the nation we find out that makes this the game that unites the ages.

IT HAS been carnival time for the last five-weeks, with the sights and sounds of Rio capturing the imagination the world over.

It has been no different here in Gwent.

Football has become a steady part of daily life, with people watching the drama unfold, and fans - young and old - attempting to recreate the magic in back gardens and local pitches.

Blaenavon Blues coach Matthew Browning, said the number of children wanting to sign up to the team since the start of the Brazil has increased on previous years.

“I have certainly had a lot of requests over the last few weeks since the World Cup and nice weather has been with us," said Mr Browning, who coaches the under-six age group

“We now need more volunteers because we have got to the point of having to turn kids away in certain age groups.”

He said aside from the fun of mini-football, players also get to mix with other children outside of their school.

He said: “They also get practical skills like coordination, discipline and working as part of a team."

He said he always wanted to be involved with children’s football but previously coached an adult’s team.

“I think it’s important for youngsters to be encouraged to be active and football provides the perfect opportunity," he added.

“I would also like to encourage more girls to play the game.”

At the other end of the scale, Blaenavon Blues is set to celebrate a player’s 25th season with the club by hosting a match against Wales Veterans.

He has played over 750 times for the club and scored almost 500 goals, so to mark Steve White’s 25-years of service, a Blaenavon Blues Select XI will take on Wales Veterans tomorrow (JULY 13), with kick-off at 2pm at The Memorial Ground, Blaenavon.

Mr White, 42, has picked pick the team, and will be joined by his son, Dominic, 16.

Mr White said: “It will be a hard game as they have some really good players, but we are all looking forward to the match.”

He explained that his love for the Blues started when he was a teenager, as living so close, he would spent most Saturdays watching matches. Then, at 15, he started training with them.

“The team inspired me to play and I haven’t looked back," he said.

“I will play for as long as I possibly can for the team.”

He said that people often ask him why he didn’t go on and play at a higher standard but he said that he just couldn’t imagine putting another jersey on.

Mr White said: “To walk down those steps on the co-op field was an amazing feeling for me, I felt proud and honoured to be representing the town, and as captain for ten years I have been so lucky.”

He describes himself as a competitive person who is always either training or at the gym.

He added: “Between training and the gym it keeps me trim and fit, so I’m still a match for the youngsters.

“The game has become a full time hobby and I have made some good friends over the years.

“I would recommend it as a form of exercise as I’m definitely in better shape than most people who prefer to just sit back and watch a game instead of playing it.”

The chairman of Blaenavon blues, Robert Browning, described Mr White as a “dedicated player”.

He said: “Over the years when the Blues played Gwent Central League Steve had many offers to go to sides playing at a higher level but chose to remain with his town club, helping them reach Gwent County Division 1 .”

He said that Mr White has also been player-manager for the firsts and reserves, represented the Gwent County League, and recently turned out for the Welsh Veterans.

He added: “All this while taking his talented son Dominic, three to four times a week, to play for Bristol City and Steve never missed a training session or match.

“For any up and coming youngster he is the ideal role model for them to aspire to.”

Blaenavon Blues currently run three senior teams and juniors, from age five to 16, and have plans for an under 18’s squad later this year.

Mr Browning explained that Torfaen took over the club’ s beloved co-op field ground to build Blaenavon Heritage School around four years ago, leaving club members “devastated”.

The club were then relocated to the Memorial Ground behind the ironworks.

He said: “Since then we haven't looked back with one of the best grounds in Torfaen.”

The club now maintain four grounds to accommodate all the teams that they operate.

He said: “When you see all these children enjoying playing football it becomes worthwhile.”

The majority of the club’s senior teams are made up of boys coming up through the junior and youth set-up.

“Praise must go to the dedication of the coaches who spend their spare time developing their talents," Mr Browning added.

“For a small village it’s amazing how many football teams we have.”

Blaenavon Blues now have a small clubhouse but the club hopes that in time it will be able to extend it. It wants to provide a space for players, past and present.

Dedicated fan of the club, Jeff Huybs, 62, played for the side from age 16 to 46, and has since held various positions at the club including chairman and secretary.

He now watches the matches and writes the match reports.

He said he thinks it essential that parents get their children involved in sports such as football for exercise.

He added: “The club can now nurture the players from a young age and give them some of the best coaching so that they can progress.

“It is a joy to watch the youngsters progress to the senior side as many of the team’s best current players have.”

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