This week seven young people from Oldham Athletic Community Trust's Kicks programme faced Wigan Athletic in the Premier League North West Kicks League.
The Premier League Kicks project is based in disadvantaged areas and supports Sport England’s aim to take sport to where people are. This enables clubs to work with young people that may have previously been difficult to engage with.
Football is the primary focus but the vibrant nature of the programme has enhanced its appeal to young people by offering a multi sports element with more than 35 other sports being delivered.
The team that faced Wigan were a mixture of participants from the Community Trust's Thursday and Saturday night Kicks sessions which are held at St Martins Primary School and The Honeywell Centre.
The fixture brought together young people from different areas of Oldham to represent Oldham Athletic together as one team.
The fixture also saw the official unveiling of a new Kicks partner for OACT as The Safeguard Group have offered their support to the project and become an OACT Kicks partner. The support of Safeguard will help with the costs of participating in the Premier League North West Kicks League for the remainder of the year.
Ben Ingham Safeguard Group's Education and Community Lead said: "We are absolutely delighted to sponsor such an important and life changing project. It's vital that young people are given every opportunity to make a positive contribution and Kicks does exactly that."
Martin Vose, OACT Participation Manager commented: "When you factor in transportation costs, facility hire and staffing costs it does come to a significant additional cost to participate in the Kicks league on top of the nightly Kicks provision we deliver.
"Thanks to the support of Safeguard we can now continue to offer the young people that attend our Kicks session the chance to experience playing against other Kicks projects and travel around the North West representing both Oldham Athletic and their local area. Without the support of Safeguard this may not have been possible."
The Safeguard logo will appear on the projects banners which are visible at every Kicks session and also on the front of the Kicks kit which team play in for every Kicks game.
People may not realise it but Kicks is a hugely important project to the whole community of Oldham. It utilises community facilities and helps make sport accessible at times where perhaps there is not anything else to do.
On the evening Oldham Kicks finished 19-18 winners, but once again it was a fixture that wasn’t all about the end result, it was about the young people and the opportunity they have been given.
The idea behind the monthly fixtures is to allow different groups of young people the chance to play against other professional clubs Kicks projects and to represent their area.
Andrew Nesbitt, OACT Community Coach added: "The fixture versus Wigan was a brilliant opportunity for the 7 young people selected to represent not just the football club, but also their town and they did so exceptionally well demonstrating an honest and sporting attitude throughout.
"Kicks is a vital part of the communities we work in, every week we work with many individuals and I feel each have benefited from the project. Kicks is the sort of place where people can be themselves, whilst also developing the social skills they'll use in their futures."