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10 Mar 2006

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Saints star Antti Niemi inaugurates lights and presents prizes

Fourteen local youngsters aged between 7 and 15, together with several parents and other older supporters, turned up on a dry, chilly evening on 9 March to celebrate the inauguration of our new floodlights, implemented during last playing season through a grant from Southampton City Council’s Outer Shirley Regeneration Project, with supporting funding from the Royal Bank of Scotland Group’s Community Cashback programme and from the Club.

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Kath provides the initial coaching...and "helpers" look on...(click on pictures for a bigger image)

Kath Knight (BPA National Youth Development Officer and Regional Youth Coach) provided the youngsters with a basic introduction to the game and how to play it, and organised an hour-long competition of 5 games between 6 teams (2 triples and 4 pairs). She was assisted in the coaching session by Mike Knight (Regional Youth Development Officer) and, in running the competition, by Dave Stubbs (Regional League Fixtures Secretary), Adrian Thomas (BPA National Vice-President - Playing), and Richard Baker (Southern Region President). All of the members of SCPC also participated by acting as team managers in the competition, providing some advice and guidance on playing tactics, as well as reinforcing the basic skills training supplied by Kath.

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...and the youngsters pretty soon get the hang of it...

The competition was won by Matthew (13) and Ashley (10) Randell, with Luke Farmer and Michael Randell, and Ryan Dickson, Robert Padwick and Graham Galton in equal second place. The other young players were: Nathan Turner, Lauren and Johnny Medhurst, Kirsten and Richard Kelly, Lewis Prowting and Phil Muggeridge. To their great credit, none of them were much distracted from finishing their last game by the arrival of the Guest-of-Honour, Antti Niemi, Southampton FC’s and Finland’s brilliant goalkeeper!

Antti’s involvement in the event ensured both pre-publicity in the local media and a good media turnout to watch it!

After a photo-session organised by the Daily Echo, the Club President welcomed, introduced and thanked the guests, particularly the Guest-of-Honour, the sponsors, and those BPA representatives who had all travelled long distances to help to run the coaching event. Richard Baker then said a few words about pétanque in the UK and the Southern Region, emphasising the importance of involving young players, who represent the future of the sport.

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...then Antti posed with - the winners & Cllr Wakeford - just the winners - Cllr Wakeford (OSR), Richard Baker (BPASR) & Richard Trent (RBS)...

Richard Trent from the Royal Bank of Scotland Group said how pleased he was that the Group’s Community Cashback scheme had helped to fund the floodlight improvements, and that it had contributed to the promotion of this community event.

Councillor Peter Wakeford then spoke on behalf of the City Council’s Outer Shirley Regeneration Project, which had provided over three-quarters of the funding for the improvements. He also expressed his pleasure that the OSR Project had provided the substantial improvement to the playing facilities and had stimulated the community involvement, with the emphasis on younger people, in this event within the regeneration area. The Regeneration Board was also represented by Councillor Dennis Harryman and Mr Richard Downs.

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...and then he presented the prizes - 3...2...1 - in the time-honoured fashion!

Then came the moment that all of the youngsters (and most of the adults!) had been waiting patiently for, as each of them was presented with a signed certificate of their participation by Antti Niemi, who also formally declared the lights “switched on”. He also presented medals to the members of the top three teams in the competition, and chatted with everyone, and made himself available for all the requests and demands made of him. This included signing more autographs and writing a greeting in his native language for inclusion in the report that the club will send to the website of the Finland Pétanque Association. It was truly impressive to see a world class sportsman from a major sport proving to be such a fine ambassador and representative of Southampton Football Club, and taking the time and trouble and interest to make the event so memorable for everyone who attended.

Finally, drinks and “nibbles” were provided in the clubhouse bar by Jill, giving everyone the opportunity to relax and re-live a most successful event, a tribute to the hard work put in to organising it by the team led by Peter, and including Jill, Ron and the Club President.

Many, many thanks to everyone who contributed to the success!


Read the history of our successful bid for improvements!

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