Just Play Football Wins in Kent!


Two recreational football initiatives in Kent won big at yesterday’s FA Mars Just Play Awards held at St George’s Park.

Our big winner of the night, winning the FA Mars Just Play Legacy Award was the Shepway Father’s Football League. This award recognises an individual, team, organiser or Just Play centre that has successfully addressed the needs of their local community and has gone the extra mile to make a lasting contribution to encouraging healthy, active lifestyles.

The Shepway Fathers’ Football League provides a unique playing offer to an audience of footballers who have left the game due to commitments involved in having children. It also creates a strong relationship between schools, the fathers and the children. The impact that this turn-up and play league has had has been immeasurable, a number of players have significantly improved their health & wellbeing through losing weight and developing their physical fitness. This has been the direct result of participating in the Fathers Football league.

The 7 schools that have Fathers’ football teams have also noticed a greater interaction between the fathers and the schools, and between the fathers themselves, which has led to a more cohesive school community. 

The League has been successful due to the work that has been undertaken in partnership with Kent FA. This type of participation, where the players have an affinity to the team they are representing, is a model that the County FA is exploring throughout other areas of Kent; it is hoped that this could be a key part of the work being undertaken to reverse the decline in open aged football.

Our second success of the evening was for Natalie Curtis, who came second in the FA Mars Just Play Legacy Award.

Natalie Curtis has organised the Just Play Centre in Faversham for the last 7 years, at least. Hundreds of local ladies have ‘Just Played’ because of Natalie’s dedication and commitment to offer a safe and fun environment to join or rejoin the world of football. There are 16 regular attendees and there are always new members who turn up and Just Play. As Natalie contacts everyone who has ever attended we often have old faces returning which is pleasant and is an example of how welcoming we are.

Natalie allowed a local University to make a short film about the sessions and this helped to spread the word. It also made the ladies feel a little bit special that evening!

A local physiotherapy clinic came and assessed some of our ladies and gave them professional advice which also made the ladies feel supported.  Many girls who were training at a young age now represent the ladies team which demonstrates how well Natalie’s hard work pays off at keeping women in the game.  

Natalie is certainly a unique woman. Her passion for developing the young is infectious and she never fails to inspire. She regularly raises money for various charities by doing super-human activities (that one could only dream of completing) whilst providing football opportunities to a whole community and this is what makes her stand out from others across the country.

Congratulations to both winners from everyone at Kent FA.

To find out more about Just Play Centres in Kent please contact Darryl Haden on Darryl.Haden@KentFA.com .