Charlton kicks off skills wall for youngsters

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The Independent Online

Bobby Charlton, showing the same sense of timing that distinguished his football career, yesterday launched a new initiative designed to improve youngsters' basic ball skills.

As British interest in the European competitions was reduced to just Nottingham Forest, Charlton announced Footwall, a concept which, like all the best ideas, is so simple the only wonder is why no one had thought of it before.

A Footwall is a concrete wall, 10 metres by three metres, which is embedded in the ground with angled corners, like a triptych. The body of the wall is overlaid with a life-size photograph of goalmouth action from the Premiership. The idea is that children can use the wall, which will have target boxes painted on it, to practice shooting, passing and heading, either on their own, or with friends.

The wall will be paid for by advertising on the back and offered free to local authorities, schools and sports clubs. The company behind it, Footwall, hopes to install 1,000 sites in the next year, with the cost covered by pounds 5.2m in advertising revenue. The backdrop will be changed every fortnight to sustain interest.

"I learned by playing in the street but, nowadays, the streets are full of cars," Charlton said. "Parents do not want their kids playing in them and they stay inside and play with computers and watch TV instead.

"Kids do not practice the basics anymore. They go straight into matches and hardly touch the ball. I want our youngsters to master their skills and make British football the envy of the world again."

The idea is backed by the Football Association Premier League and has been tested by Aston Villa. There are some reservations , however. For instance, why was the Professional Football Association's excellent "Football in the Community" scheme not involved? Will sites have control over the choice of advertisements? Obviously, schools will not want cigarette or alcohol advertising on their premises.