Oakgrove girls Ava and Courtney enjoy opportunity of a lifetime by playing on Old Trafford pitch

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Two students from Oakgrove Integrated College visited Old Trafford this week to enjoy a very special day at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’.

Courtney and Ava – both 15 – took part in an ‘Adidas pitch day’ as a reward for their fantastic work at Manchester United Foundation projects in Derry.

Oakgrove is the Foundation’s first partner school in NI, forming part of a wider link-up with Ulster University, which aims to support young people across the Foyle Learning Community through football projects, additional academic enrichment and amazing opportunities like the one experienced this week.

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Ava and Courtney have been involved in a host of Foundation sessions and projects since the inception of the partnership with Ulster University in 2018, including online sessions during the Covid-19 pandemic, Girls’ Development sessions and the Youth Ambassador scheme.

Courtney and Ava on the hallowed Old Trafford turf.Courtney and Ava on the hallowed Old Trafford turf.
Courtney and Ava on the hallowed Old Trafford turf.

They began their day with a tour of the stadium, taking in the history, the heritage and the silverware of Manchester United, before walking onto the hallowed turf and enjoying a pitch day experience, gifted to the Foundation by Adidas.

Courtney said: “It’s been a crazy day and we were up super early in the morning to fly over to Manchester, but it was all worth it. It’s been great to see the stadium, but also to do what not many people experience: going out on the pitch. It was so exciting!"

Ava added: “It was fantastic, something completely different to anything I’ve experienced before. I really enjoy working with Matthew and the Foundation at our sessions back home, so this is a really special bonus.”

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The theme of the day was centred around empowering young girls and the two Oakgrove students joined fellow female participants from the Foundation’s projects in Greater Manchester, enjoying a football tournament and a skills session on the pitch graced by the likes of Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Alessia Russo and Ella Toone.

Courtney and Ava take to the pitch at Old Trafford.Courtney and Ava take to the pitch at Old Trafford.
Courtney and Ava take to the pitch at Old Trafford.
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The pair also took part in educational workshops, including one – focusing on sustainability in sport – delivered by Adidas.

The girls got the chance to take a close look at some of the brand’s eco-friendly sports clothing, whilst also suggesting ideas on how we can better protect our planet.

Matthew Lewsley, Outreach Manager for the Foundation, said: “There are not many people who are offered an incredible experience like this, and the girls understand how special this is, but at the same time, they are thoroughly deserving of it thanks to their great work over the past few years.

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Taking part in a training session at the 'Theatre of Dreams'.Taking part in a training session at the 'Theatre of Dreams'.
Taking part in a training session at the 'Theatre of Dreams'.

"I hope it will be a day that will live with them forever and show what their hard work and effort can achieve.”

John Harkin, Principal at Oakgrove, said: “Today has been a lovely celebration of the fact that the girls have been involved right from the start.

"We want to empower everyone in the school community, but particularly the girls, so Courtney and Ava are a perfect representation of what we hoped the partnership between us and Manchester United Foundation would be, and what we want it to be moving forward.

“These kinds of experiences truly are once in a lifetime and I can see that they’ve enjoyed every second. Well done to both of them and thank you so much to Adidas and to the Foundation for making this possible.”

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