Youth football: Youths club together to spread festive cheer

Having been in receipt of many plaudits for their endeavours on the pitch this year, young footballers in Edinburgh and the Lothians have displayed the art of giving this festive season.

A series of initiatives are being run by local clubs to the benefit of hundreds of people all over the world. Hampers in the Hutchison area of the Capital, presents to those in and around Pilton, and hand-me-down football shirts destined for Africa are among the many gifts being doled out by young footballers in and around the city.

Hutchison Vale Community Sports Club, which runs male and female football teams from age three to adult level, donated dozens of food-filled hampers to residents in the area surrounding its Ford's Road base, just off Gorgie Road.

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Heart of Midlothian defender Eggert Jonsson and MSP Sarah Boyack were on hand to offer support to Vale's coaches and young players as they set off on their rounds just before Christmas. The local parliamentarian praised the continued work of the club, saying a local elderly population much in need of the food donations would greatly appreciate the gesture.

She said: "I've always been impressed with Hutchison Vale's work in the community, and this is a brilliant initiative, especially as it goes to help older people who have been stuck in their houses - some for three weeks. It is a fantastic gift from the club to the old folks who can't get out onto the streets and pavements and is a great role model for the kids here, showing them it's important to look after people."

Tam Smith, of Hutchison Vale, said he was heartened by the support of local supermarkets, who donated food vouchers and bags to contain the supplies. He said: "We're bridging the gap between kids and OAPs, and we're delighted with the donations from The Co-operative and Asda."

In North Edinburgh, Spartans Football Club's youth section donated toiletries and clothing to its local homeless shelter, the Salvation Army-managed Ashbrook facility. Nearly 50 presents were handed over prior to Christmas Day, and the club also donated a brand new set of football strips to Forthview Primary School as gratitude to one of its coaches who divides his skills in football training between Spartans and the school each week.

AC Oxgangs also gave the gift of garments, with second-hand football strips from their young players going even farther afield as part of the club's continuing relationship with South African charity Umthombo.

Following on from last season's highly successful and rewarding donation of over 50 AC Oxgangs kits to the James Gillespie's High School global citizen project, the club now makes regular contributions of unwanted football strips to the street children of Durban.

Meanwhile, Queensferry Thistle showed similar initiative - and considerable bravery - in an effort to generate funds for new strips. The club's under-13 outfit was formed in the summer to compete in the South East Region Youth FA setup, and 15 members of the new-look squad and their coaches will participate in the Loony Dook at South Queensferry on New Year's Day, a tradition that sees hundreds of people plunge into the icy waters of the Firth of Forth. Two players, Fraser Henn and Jamie Brown, came up with the suggestion.

"We always knew we wanted to get new strips," says team manager Stephen Henn. "We sent an email around the parents to make sure they were on board, so we have 15 of the squad committed and two coaches, myself and Stewart Brown.

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"We hope each boy can raise between 25 and 50. There's an element of excitement, but some trepidation; trying to convince them that although it's cold outside, the water will be warmer. I'm not sure if any of them believe me, though."