Look out for the European Soccer Championships of 2016

24th November 1995 at 00:00
Soccer Sevens is the in-phrase as Scotland seeks to get back to the days of the "tanner-ba" players who have become a distant memory in modern football.

Small-sided football is seen as the sensible step forward as Scotland tries to get back some of the respect it once held in European football. It is a pity that Soccer Sevens was not tried 20 years ago. Then maybe Scots would be looking forward to next year's European Championship finals with more confidence.

Yet 20 years ago, or 19 to be more exact, Soccer Sevens was being played in Scotland and Lothian Region's department of education was in at the birth. The department's sports unit piloted the game in 1976 when the Scottish Football Association's former national director of coaching, Andy Roxburgh, and Eddie Still, the former PE adviser to Lothian, tried out Sevens at Corstorphine primary.

Lothian Region, through its sports unit and school sports associations, has developed Soccer Sevens in a gradual way over the past 10 years for boys and girls. More than 200 training courses have taken place for teachers and there are regular fixtures which have involved a total of 2,000 pupils and festivals which have attracted around 10,000 players.

The game has been developed through PE programmes in the formal curriculum and through extra-curricular activities for pupils from primary 3, seven to eight-year-olds. In Edinburgh alone, 56 schools and 86 teams play fixtures for primary 5 and under on a regular basis. Edinburgh also has 25 teams from 221 schools taking part in girls-only Soccer Sevens fixtures. Lothian has looked at ways of modifying existing 11-a-side pitches to cater for smaller-sided games with different coloured line marking providing more flexibility, as in games halls.

Lothian has been active in a variety of sports through its primary schools and secondary schools sports associations. There are a total of 12 sports in the Lothian Schools Directory, ranging from orienteering to volleyball and there are regular schools competitions throughout term-time in a full calendar.

Lothian sends badminton teams to inter-area events throughout Scotland and last September sent a team to the Isle of Man.

In volleyball, Balerno has recently hosted a festival at Balerno Community High for junior pupils, while the Edinburgh schools swimming championships have just been held at the Commonwealth Pool.In March, Meadowmill hosts the Lothian Schools under-13 basketball championships and there are also the Edinburgh primary badminton championships at Forrester.

Charles Raeburn, Lothian's assistant adviser for PE, said: "We hope when the new authorities are in place that they recognise the infrastructure that is in place with the schools associations in Lothian."

The fear is that some sports are too small to survive on their own if they are not part of an association of different sports.

In rugby, Richie Dixon is a full-time development officer for Lothian, a pioneering post for the region. One of the spin-offs of the appointment was that Lothian sent a team from non fee-paying schools to Paris earlier this year for a tour.

Another success for Lothian has been the sports twinning with the Danish town of Aalborg. This has grown to such an extent that Lothian chartered an aircraft to fly the team to this year's event.

Mr Raeburn said: "It started with a pilot scheme in 1972 involving just two sports, football and swimming. The exchange has taken place every four years since 1975. When we go to Aalborg, the event touches almost every family in the town in some way or other. It is families which put up the Lothian pupils who go over and it is a high standard of competition in many sports. This year we took 140 children in seven sports and our total party that travelled was 165 when you include parents and teachers.

"Whether the exchange continues is the $64,000 question, but strong links have been forged with Aalborg and it would be nice to continue it."

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