30 Jan 2009

As the Bluebirds prepare for their second-leg FA Cup clash with Premiership giants Arsenal next week, Cardiff City and Wales midfielder Joe Ledley has signed up to encourage youngsters to follow their sporting dreams.

With the 2008/09 title race now in full swing and the FA Cup ties hotting up, 22 year-old, Cardiff born Ledley, has taken time out of his hectic training schedule to join forces with the Sports Council for Wales’ Dragon Sport programme and meet youngsters from All Saints C/W Primary School in Barry to motivate them into taking part.

The lottery funded initiative provides extra-curricular physical activity opportunities for primary school children throughout Wales and focuses on eight sports – cricket, hockey, golf, athletics, netball, rugby, tennis and football. 94% of primary schools are now actively involved in Wales’ biggest campaign to get youngsters hooked on out-of-school-hours sport.

The perfect inspiration for Cardiff youngsters – Ledley joined the Cardiff City FC Centre of Excellence at the age of nine after spending his early years supporting his home town. Progressing through the ranks at the club he made his professional debut in October 2004 and went on to score the winning goal that pushed his team into last year’s FA Cup final at Wembley.

Ledley expresses the importance of getting youngsters into studs as early as possible:

"Programmes like Dragon Sport are vital to the future of Welsh football, and sport in general. The more Welsh boys and girls we have playing and developing, the more there will be to choose from for national squads and teams in the future.

"I am pleased to be involved with the programme and hope that young footballers can take inspiration from the career that I have had so far. Earning 24 caps for my country makes me really proud. Dragon Sport gives youngsters great direction and expertise in a fun environment and stands them in good stead to achieve similar success for themselves."

Phillip Carling, Chair of the Sports Council for Wales, welcomes Ledley on board:

"Dragon Sport is exceeding all expectations and I’m pleased that so many schools and clubs are providing fun and safe sports sessions for primary school children. Having inspirational sporting figures such as Joe Ledley backing the scheme can only benefit it further and work towards encouraging more children to get involved. We’re delighted to have him on board."

Neil Ward, General Manager of the Welsh Football Trust, which helped developed Ledley through its National Development squad structure said:

"We are delighted to see Joe appointed as an ambassador to the Dragon Sport programme. He is the perfect example of a young Welsh talent spotted at an early age at the grassroots level, who has gone on to play for his club and country at the highest level. Joe is an excellent role model for all those young Wales players of tomorrow."

The young footballers from All Saints C/W Primary School have already taken a step in the right direction - proving victorious in Cardiff City’s Football in the Community Department’s schools tournament before Christmas. They will now go on to play in the regional finals in Bristol.

James Ball, PE Teacher at All Saints C/W Primary School, comments:

"We were lucky to be able to represent the Vale of Glamorgan in the Community Cup and were overwhelmed to beat such tough competition from all over South Wales. We will be proudly representing both Cardiff City FC and the Vale of Glamorgan in the regional finals.

"We fully support the Dragon Sport ethos at our school and use their resources to help enhance our P.E lessons. Being Cardiff City fans the children were very excited to meet Joe Ledley - he is there idol."

One of the main aims of Dragon Sport is to recruit and train volunteer sports organisers, leader and coaches to spend time introducing youngsters to sports like football, tennis and hockey – especially parents and teachers who are the real experts on getting children out onto the pitch.

If you want to find out more about Dragon Sport in your area, contact your local authority and ask for your Dragon Sport coordinator or check out www.dragon-sport.co.uk