After 18 months out of action due to the coronavirus pandemic, a youth football team is preparing to get their new season underway this month.
Cwrt Rawlin Under-13s last played a competitive match in February 2020, before the coronavirus outbreak.
But now, with a number of friendlies under their belt, the team is raring to go.
Speaking to Caerphilly Observer, the team’s head coach, Gary King, said: “At the start of lockdown, we were worried about the kids and we weren’t sure how long it would all last.
“We were disappointed we couldn’t finish the season and we had to miss all the end of season tournaments and tours.”
When the pandemic struck, the team were unable to train or meet up, so the team coaches – who are all volunteers – arranged a series of challenges during lockdown to help the players keep fit and stay engaged.
The coaches organised challenges such as running 26 miles over a month and other fitness-related tasks.
The team returned to training in April this year, when coronavirus restrictions were eased in Wales.
King said: “Numbers came back strong. We have a squad of 20 and regularly get around 19 or 20 in training each week. Everyone was really keen to get back into it.”
Since May this year, the team has been playing friendlies against teams from across Caerphilly County Borough and further afield, winning six, drawing one and losing three.
King has coached the players since they were playing for the Under-6s side, and said he still has the same core of players he had seven years ago.
“I feel really proud they’ve stayed with us, stuck with it and enjoy it. They’re a jovial group and it’s rewarding keeping this group together.
“The ethos with kids’ football is giving everyone the same game time and to try and give the boys confidence.
“It’s about community spirit and getting kids to enjoy sport.”
The team plays in the Taff Ely Rhymney Valley League U13s division and train on the 3G pitch at St Cenydd Comprehensive School.
They play their home games in Castle Maen, Morgan Jones Park and the Owain Glyndwr playing field on Crescent Road.
With the new season about to get underway, the club has received new kits after being sponsored by the Esquires Coffee franchise in Castle View, Caerphilly.
The new kits will sport the Esquires logo on the front, after the cafe covered the costs of kitting out the team.
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Normally, kits can cost parents around £35 each, but the £700 sponsorship deal means parents haven’t had to pay a penny towards the new kit.
A team photo of the players will also go on display at Esquires.
King said: “With the recent investment, we should certainly look the part.”
The team held its presentation evening and quiz at Esquires, where trophies were handed out to players.
The club also held a fun day at Porthkerry Country Park in Barry, where players and parents alike took part in activities such as baseball, 100m and 400m sprints.
King said: “We’ve tried to keep the energy going for the team. We take a personal pride in it.
“We spend a lot of time organising training, social events and matches. We’re doing something every day.”
He added: “We want to challenge for the league next season. But it’s not just about winning and competition, there’s also the wellbeing and social aspect of it too.”
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