Manchester United captain Katie Zelem and Nikita Parris headed to Football Fives soccer centre in Trafford to support the new venue, specked out with state-of-the-art technology, ready to take small-sided football to the next level.
Zelem, a midfielder for club and country with a zest for close-touch football, said: "We always laugh at football because it's a certain type of player that likes five-a-side. Usually it’s the midfielders but never the quick winger who havent got enough space to run into.
“But, if anyone knows me as a player knows that this is my sort of game. Since playing football, I’ve always tried to play five a side. I get little teams together with the girls, especially when it was difficult to play over lockdown and stuff, but when the restriction eased, we started playing five aside over the summer and that reignited my love for it, almost.
“It's hard to fit in now with such a busy schedule, but anytime in the preseason and the offseason, it's something that I always love to do because it really has helped my game personally and a lot of people say that they’ve become better from playing small-sided games.
“It develops so many aspects of football that you don't see on a big picture. Close ball control, the technical ability of players, close touch first touch, technical ability, being able to turn on the ball, small passes, combinations. Also you don't have to run that much.”
At the Fives Soccer Centre's launch event, a tournament between men, women and non-binary players from around the local community was set up to celebrate the diversity and inclusivity of football at the Fives right in the heart of Manchester, with Zelem and United's Nikita Parris also spending time at the Fives Academy training sessions with young players of the future.
“There are so many different people from so many walks of life here and I think that's what's amazing about football. But the fact that Fives are bringing this amazing facility to the community is a huge thing,” Zelem continued. ”It was new for me too, to be honest [having a mixed tournament] but I came out before and one of the girls has been running rings around the lads. I thought that shows that gender has nothing to do with football.
“[here] It's as inclusive as possible and I think for me also it's about confidence, confidence in being yourself and being able to own it. So to have a facility like this, is providing huge inclusivity is amazing. Everyone loves the social aspect of sport and I think that it's a great way to bring people together".
Zelem complimented Fives for their efforts towards player development through gold standard technology now available and declared if this type of facility was available when she was younger, there would be no chance of getting her off the pitch.
Fives Trafford is fitted with brand-new technology that will take the small-sided game and player experience onto uncharted territory. Each pitch offers individual player tracking, allowing each player or coach to analyse and log their performance stats after a game, as well as video match replays and highlights for social media. The facility is open to the public and individual pitches and leagues can be booked via the Football Fives mobile app .