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Page last updated at 17:39 GMT, Friday, 4 April 2008 18:39 UK

'A day to make Nottingham proud'

By Mario Hajiloizis
BBC Blast reporter

Women's final
Action from the women's final won by New Girls on the Block

It might have been pouring down with rain during the Your Game festival in Nottingham but that failed to dampen the spirits from everyone involved.

The excitement could be felt well before the event got kick-started just after 10.30am, with eager participants starting to roll in just after 9am.

It was easy to get carried away with the music pumping out loud, football matches in full flow and the BBC Blast workshops primed to showcase budding football commentators and street dancers.

However, one of the principles behind the event was to help communities which suffer from inner-city poverty, giving youngsters the opportunity to experience things they wouldn't do normally with the hope they will move away from negative street culture.

Nottingham itself has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons over the past few years.

Danielle Beccan's well-documented death in 2004 when she was shot dead by rival gangs as she walked home from Nottingham's annual Goose Fair festival highlighted growing concerns not only within Nottingham, but also on a national scale.

It is festivals like Your Game which aim to prevent more tragic things like this happening again, by getting youngsters to interact with each other positively through playing football or learning about other careers which are available to them.

On the pitch, New Girls on the Block incredibly won the girls tournament after they only met each other for the first time on the day itself! They defeated Score for Sport 3-2 in the final which illustrated just how teamwork can help youngsters achieve.

As the day came to an end I looked back at everything going on around me feeling nothing but pride

Mario Hajiloizis

Star player Cassie Whelan explained how this event will help her future.

"I'd like to do sport in communities," she said. "Your Game has offered me many opportunities where I can go down different routes helping me get on my way so it's been very helpful."

Majad Hussein who played for men's runners-up Bobbers Mill also underlined the importance of the day.

"The atmosphere has been really friendly," he said. "It's quite hard nowadays especially on the streets so it's something I think should be done more often."

Of course, events like this would be impossible to run without the priceless help from volunteers - it is easy to forget about how important they really are.

Anna McMann, from Leeds, said that volunteering on the day had helped her learn vital characteristics that will benefit her in the future.

Majad Hussein from Bobbers Mill
Majad Hussein from Bobbers Mill praised the friendly atmosphere

"I want to get involved in community sport," she said. "Today I've learnt how to work on a community project, deal with different kinds of people and pick up advice from various people that will help me in my career."

Bianca Richards, who came along with Anna, added: "It's given me the experience to interact with young people and learn how to network with organisations which I might use in the future."

As the day came to an end I looked back at everything going on around me feeling nothing but pride. Proud to be from Nottingham. Proud that Your Game brought so much happiness to all these young people.

So I would like to take this opportunity to thank the BBC along with the Football Foundation in bringing this event to Nottingham.

Not only has it been an amazing experience helping me in my future career but also for all the youngsters taking part. Just to see them smile during the day made it all worth it.

Mario Hajiloizis signed up for the BBC Blast reporters workshop at Nottingham. If you would like to do the same for future festivals visit the BBC Blast website.

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see also
New Girls strike gold in Nottingham
03 Apr 08 |  Your Game
Your Game Nottingham in pictures
03 Apr 08 |  Your Game
'Gang feud led to shooting death'
08 Sep 05 |  Nottinghamshire

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