SPORTS minister Shona Robison has praised a five-a-side football programme in Dundee that encourages local children to keep active and stay off the streets.
And the cabinet minister, who is also overseeing this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, said Scotland’s largest city could take a leaf out of Dundee’s book.
Robison was attending a Bank of Scotland Midnight League session in full flow on Good Friday, where more than 50 children took part in five-a-side football matches.
And Robison insisted the Bank of Scotland Midnight League is a perfect example of how important grassroots are.
“The Midnight League has been a very popular event, especially considering this is the first week back after the holidays,” she said. “The Midnight League has been going for over ten years now and it is a great initiative.
“The diversity of kids is the most striking thing, 47 per cent of the kids come from 20 per cent of the most deprived areas in Scotland, which is really, really good.
“It’s an exciting time in general for Scottish sport, we’ve just had the ‘100 days to go’ ahead of the Commonwealth Games and we have the Ryder Cup coming here among many other things.
“Everyone that has made it to the top of the pyramid in sport got spotted at places like this, it’s is tremendously important that we engage children in sport.”
Scottish FA coaches run the sessions, and each year more than 6,000 young people play at over 100 venues across every local authority in Scotland.
Now in its 11th year, the Bank of Scotland Midnight League provides a safe environment for players of all abilities to enjoy the game and can help reduce instances of anti-social behaviour at the same time.
“The Midnight League runs once a week and targets kids in and around the local area, the all-weather pitch really helps as well because we run all through the summer and winter, but it’s free of charge,” said 28-year-old Damon Neish, lead coach at the Scottish FA.
“We encourage kids to just come and play but we get a whole range of kids who turn up and there are some talented children, from this area as well.
“It is more based on getting involved in activity, and getting the kids off the street, but we do identify a lot of talent and give them opportunities to get involved with local clubs.”
For more information, please visit scottishfa.co.uk/midnightleague