Football’s largest ever mass participation tournament, the FA People’s Cup, reaches its pinnacle on Sunday (20th March) as part of Sport Relief weekend, and two Essex teams are hoping for national Adult Female and U-14s Girls glory.

By Chris Evans / Essex FA

Small-sided provider Goals in Sheffield plays host to the 90 teams who will battle it out for the honour of being 2016 champions across eleven categories ranging from U-14s to Veterans – also including disability and walking football tournaments. Representing Essex will be She Can Play in the Adult Female and Tigers ‘A’ in the U-14s Girls.

She Can Play qualified from Powerleague London City, and Kat Clifton loves the exposure her team are receiving: “The BBC have taken a few pictures of us and used them quite a lot during their marketing of the event! We’re all friends from university who don’t play together anymore due to location, so I got all the girls together in London to have a kickabout and have some fun. Then we ended up becoming unbeaten in the tournament!

“We are so excited for the finals! Our name actually comes from The FA’s initiative to increase the number of girls playing football from the national Girls’ Football Week held in October, called ‘We Can Play’. I hope our success in the tournament will inspire more young girls to go and play football with their friends and make new ones!”

Tigers ‘A’, meanwhile, won their qualifiers at PlayFootball Romford. Adam Lewis commented: “We are so proud to be representing our club, and Essex, in the FA People’s Cup Under 14s Girls category. It looks like a tough draw for us, but we can’t wait for Sunday. We’ve got a fantastic squad of players and unbelievable team spirit. So… who knows! I’m not sure who is more excited – the players or the parents?”

A record 35,000 people entered the tournament back in January, comprising a staggering 4,300 teams. Round One featured over 2,000 hours of action across 130 venues, with 400 teams going forward to the regional finals across eight venues. Pete Ackerley, FA Head of Participation, said: “The FA People’s Cup brings the delights of knockout football to everyone – and the sheer volume of people who entered shows the tournament’s appeal.”

“We established the People’s Cup to reignite a passion for the game among those who may have lapsed – and we have clearly achieved that. Across the country there are now more varied opportunities to play football than ever before – and anyone inspired by the People’s Cup should visit The FA website to find places to play locally.”

The People’s Cup has been followed every step of the way by BBC Get Inspired, and coverage from the finals will be available on the iPlayer and the red button.

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