All kinds of football lovers, from enthusiastic amateurs to professional players, have benefited from a National Lottery grant which has helped promote the sport in the Highlands. In 2003, two world-class football facilities, one in Dingwall and one in Inverness, were opened with the aim of providing high quality facilities for coaching players.
The National Lottery grant helped towards construction and set-up costs.Since the grand opening, thousands of people from a huge range of backgrounds and abilities have played and trained on the academies’ pitches. Local teams Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ross County both use the facilities for training, while amateur groups play in the evenings and the local fire brigade and police force use the pitches to keep fit.
The facilities are now so popular that the academy is struggling to keep up with demand, says development manager Roderick.Pupils from a local school for young people with special needs use the Dingwall facilities twice a week, playing games with coaches and players from Ross County. “It’s great because it improves their physical fitness, coordination and confidence,” says Roderick. “And they get to rub shoulders with their heroes.” It’s this kind of project that the academy is keen to become more involved with in future.
For the community in general, the centre provides space for a kickabout and encourages those who use it to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Young people who share the space with players from the Scottish Football League are taught to stay active. “Whether they’re going to become the next Ronaldo or not, they see how important it is to sustain a healthy lifestyle,” says Roderick.