HIBS boss Neil Lennon was at the fore as familiar faces from the world of Scottish football gathered to join the Irishman in celebrating the work of Helping Hands in bringing free coaching to children from deprived communities across Edinburgh.
The Helping Hands Community Festival saw hundreds of Edinburgh children gather at the city’s Meadows as sporting stars from the capital lent their support to one of the most dynamic youth outreach projects in the country.
With significant support coming from the Hibs family in the city, Hibs stars John McGinn and Lewis Stevenson joined former Hibs players and current Celtic men Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths in sharing their own talents with the young people of Edinburgh and presenting participants with a commemorative medal (above).
Having identified the lack of affordable and well-structured training as a problem in making the most of sporting talents in deprived areas, organisers enlisted the help of ex-footballers such as Michael Weir and Allan Preston, formerly of Hibs and Hearts respectively.
With their support, 300 children received quality coaching in the game, and were invited to gather at the Meadows for the festival of sport.
Speaking at the event, Neil Lennon praised the efforts of all those involved in the bringing football to the young people of Edinburgh.
“It’s brilliant because it gives under-privileged kids a chance to play in an arena like this,” Lennon said. “If I was growing up nowadays I’d be priced out of football because my mum and dad couldn’t have afforded it back in the day. It’s important that every kid has the opportunity to participate in the sport because it’s always been a working-class sport.
“Kids should not be priced out of it and, having spoken to people involved with this project, it is an issue. There should be dialogue and there should be funding because it is the national game. Kids on the housing schemes are normally the hungrier ones, so we could be missing out on a generation of players because of affordability.”
Lennon also praised the ranks of professional players who turned out to lend their support, which also included those from Rangers and Hearts.
“It was a brilliant turnout of players,” he said. “You’d get some five-a-side team out of that lot!”