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Page last updated at 10:25 GMT, Wednesday, 4 June 2008 11:25 UK

Footballers targeted for Olympics

Young footballers
UK Sport believes footballers athletic skills are transferable

Young footballers released from club academies are being urged to switch to alternative Olympic sports.

UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport is inviting players aged 18-22 to attend two Olympic Talent Assessment Events in July.

It is part of a Pitch2Podium programme aimed at discovering medal-winning for the London Games in 2012.

"Football is the largest hot-bed of athletic talent in England," said UK Sport's Chelsea Warr.

Backed by the Football Association, the Premier League, the Football League and the Professional Footballers' Association, the programme is focused on players who have not yet secured a professional football contract.

What a fantastic opportunity for these players

Darren Campbell
Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter
More than 1,000 have already been invited to next month's events and, if successful, they will continue through to further, more sport specific events.

"Many of these players leaving the professional game would have already developed the ready-made skills and abilities we'd be looking for," added Warr.

"These, along with the right coaching and support system, would give them the potential to be fast-tracked toward the medal rostrum in 2012."

Olympic gold medal winning sprinter Darren Campbell, who once played professional football for Plymouth, said it was the perfect opportunity for released footballers to temper their disappointment and fulfil their potential.

"What a fantastic opportunity for these players," he said.

"It's not easy when a young footballer is faced with the reality that they might never get a professional contract and - for maybe the first time in their lives - having to consider 'Plan B'.

"This programme may be the natural choice for many given the opportunity.

"Throughout their time in football, they've trained hard and are disciplined, providing them with a solid grounding for a potential future in Olympic sport."

As well as athletics being an obvious choice, British hockey and cycling have already shown great interest in taking on football recruits if they meet the required standards.

see also
The 2012 X Factor
03 May 07 |  Olympics 2012
Sporting Giants 'amaze' Redgrave
28 Feb 08 |  London 2012
British handball eyes 2012 glory
28 Feb 07 |  Olympics 2012

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