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31 May 2005

The cream of European football will be on display next week at City of Manchester Stadium. And we’re not talking Beckham, Owen or Gerrard.Football01a

Eight nations will be vying for the UEFA Women’s Euro 2005 which kicks off on 5 June. And although Wales are absent from the line-up, Welsh captain Jayne Ludlow hopes the pitch performances will inspire girls in Wales to take up the beautiful game.

The Arsenal player, who has been three-times voted the FA’s Player’s Player of the Year, is the latest ambassador to be enlisted by Dragon Sport - the Sports Council for Wales programme which aims to get more primary school children than ever before playing extra-curricular sport.

She says, "Women’s football is the world’s fastest-growing sport – it’s a great way to get fit and to meet new friends. Dragon Sport provides so many opportunities to play and now is a perfect time to get involved, ahead of the school holidays."

By throwing her support behind the programme, she follows in the footsteps of Gavin Henson, Tanni Grey-Thompson and former Wales skipper Mark Hughes.

Dragon Sport has been operating successfully all over Wales, with xx schools and more than xx children, including xx girls, taking part in its football sessions last year.

Like Ludlow, Sports Minister Alun Pugh would like to see more people undertaking regular exercise and believes we can be inspired by the girls’ heroics:

"Playing football is an excellent way of keeping fit, having fun and developing skills and provides opportunities for both boys and girls which is one of the key aims of Climbing Higher – the sport and physical activity strategy I launched in 2003."

The Welsh Assembly Government last year launched Health Challenge Wales - a new national focus to secure greater ownership, commitment and action for better health, as part of a coordinated and sustained effort to improve levels of health in Wales.