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Page last updated at 13:49 GMT, Tuesday, 20 May 2008 14:49 UK

Birmingham dominates Your Game finale

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Your Game finale in Birmingham

After visiting nine different cities with 350 teams battling it out to make it to the final, the winning teams of Your Game 2008 came from less than a stone's throw from St Andrew's - Birmingham City's stadium.

In what was a fitting finale to an enthralling, and at times, robust contest, Team United Birmingham walked away with the women's trophy while Centre Spot took the men's title.

Centre Spot's victory was the third year in a row that the men's contest was won by regional Fair Play winners.

The Birmingham side, run by coach Manny Abbeyquaye, were one of 20 teams who qualified for the final by impressing watching judges with their conduct.

Yet when they needed to, they turned on the style with Thomas Obasi lighting up the final - refereed by England's top official Howard Webb - with a sensational hat-trick to beat Liverpool's Litherland Sports Park 3-1.

Earlier, Team United Birmingham were delighted to beat London's Ladies First by the same scoreline in the women's final with Leigh Dougmore on the scoresheet twice.

As well as earning the coveted Your Game title, the winning teams earn tickets to the Community Shield between Manchester United and Portsmouth at Wembley.

Thomas Obasi
Thomas Obasi scored a hat-trick for Centre Spot in the men's final

Fair Play winners Northampton's New Girls on the Block and the Sead Project from Liverpool both walk away with tickets to see a Premier League team of their choice which will give the Scousers an interesting dilemma given the team is made up of Everton and Liverpool supporters!

What was undebatable was the award of the Most Valuable Player awards to Ladies First goalkeeper Frida Ayisi and Centre Spot's Obasi.

Ayisi, once again, almost completely disregarded her goalkeeping duties on a series of rampaging runs in the women's final but unlike the London final, her contribution was eclipsed by some predatory finishing by Team United's Dougmore.

Having come through a bruising encounter with London Positive Futures in the semi-final, Team United took a 1-0 lead in the final when Samantha White headed in a lofted pass just before half-time.

That prompted Ayisi to abandon her stopping duties, but Dougmore took full advantage of the change in goalkeeper to slam home a free-kick in the second half. And although Ayisi got a deserved goal, Dougmore had the final say by adding another.

"We're doing it for Birmingham," said winning Team United captain Gemma Kehoe afterwards. "Can we say thank you to our managers Ikhlaq Hussain and Gemma Smith? They've coached us really well and its thanks to their contribution that we've won."

After 10 festivals where the mix of music and media workshops had made for a relaxed atmosphere, it was clear from some of the more x-rated tackling there were several teams who came with only one thing on their minds in Birmingham.

But as the tournament entered the closing stages with more and more games being decided by penalties, the sting in the tail was mellowed by a seemingly surprising outlet.

Perhaps not used to being greeted so warmly on a football pitch, no sooner had Howard Webb arrived than he was surrounded by players asking him about his dealings with some of the world's finest players.

And the experience was something not lost on the referee, who is due to be England's only representative at the European Championships this summer.

Winners Team United Birmingham and Centre Spot
Winners Team United Birmingham and Centre Spot made it a clean sweep for England's second city

Webb said: "The good thing about today is rather than seeing us as the man in black who they see from a distance on TV making sometimes unpopular decisions, they can have a chat and see that we are human beings and that we do love the game.

"Hopefully they go away with a different impression of what referees are like and they can gain something from my experiences as well. I think any opportunity to meet people away from the pressure of a Premier League game is a good opportunity."

The men's final between Litherland Sports Park and Centre Spot took its time to warm-up after both teams came through their semis on penalties against the winners from the two London festivals - Breyers FC and Abdi's A-List.

But Litherland's Dean Siadankay helped the game burst into life with superb strike to make it 1-0 but Obasi scored a fantastic equaliser when he beat two players before slotting home.

It was clear the tall Brummie knew when to crank up the gears and he smashed home another great goal before scoring his hat-trick with a cool finish.

Although Obasi was the star of the game, afterwards Centre Spot captain Marcel Simpson also paid tribute to his team's goalkeeper, Adam Jenkins.

"It's awesome, we cannot hide our excitement," he said. "We qualified as Fair Play winners for the final and here we are winning it representing Birmingham.

"I don't think we would have been in the final without this goalkeeper, he pulled off some awesome saves in the semis and we're just grateful for that."

Coach Manny Abbeyquaye added: "I just want to thank (Contintental All-Stars boss) Lincoln Moses for helping me put this team together. He doesn't get enough credit but he has been an inspiration."

After a sometimes manic, but always friendly, Your Game 2008 most would hope that Abbeyquaye was not the only one inspired.

Your Game is a partnership between the BBC and the Football Foundation which offers young people from under-served communities the chance to get involved in football, music and the media.

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see also
Your Game final photos
20 May 08 |  Your Game
Football incentive for kids
21 May 08 |  England
All-Stars reign in Birmingham
08 May 08 |  Your Game
Streetboys brighten up Newcastle
01 May 08 |  Your Game
Nunsthorpe steal prize in Leeds
24 Apr 08 |  Your Game
New Girls strike gold in Nottingham
03 Apr 08 |  Your Game
Portsea dominate Your Game kick-off
21 Mar 08 |  Your Game
Your Game unveiled in Banksy lair
29 Feb 08 |  Your Game
Your Game is back in 2008
09 Nov 07 |  Your Game
London teams top of Your Game
16 Jul 07 |  Your Game


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