World record breaking freestyle footballer John Farnworth has visited South Tyneside College to showcase his skills – and launch a new joint sport and academic scholarship.
He impressed students with his prowess at keeping a football in the air through flicks and tricks during a stunning 15-minute display.
John, 32, then kicked off the new course based around participation in futsal, a sport similar to five-a-side football but demanding greater skills.
South Tyneside College’s Futsal Scholarship Programme allows students to gain nationally recognised sports and academic subject qualifications in one combined course.
It is being run by the college in partnership with Inspiro Education and Durham Futsal Club, leaders in the sport.
Durham Futsal Club is part of the FA National Futsal League, which works alongside the FA to promote and grow the game of Futsal in England.
With a senior male side boasting futsal internationals from England and Northern Ireland, Durham's under 19 side also include many players who are part of the England Elite talent programme.
A Youth Academy, run in partnership with Fast Feet FA, also provides opportunities for younger players who would like to progress in the game.
Inspiro Education is an organisation that specialises in delivering tailored Futsal Scholarship programmes, providing exceptional opportunities for post-16 students to progress from both a sporting and educational perspective.
The Futsal Scholarship Programme will combine strong academic learning with participation in a high-quality futsal performance programme delivered by UEFA and FA licensed coaches.
Scholars will train up to four times a week, play in competitive fixtures, and have opportunity to gain FA coaching qualifications, with on-going support from FA Coach Mentors.
John, 32, whose latest record-breaking attempt involves scaling part of Mount Everest while keeping up a football, hailed the scholarship and the benefits of futsal.
He said: “What the college is doing with this scholarship is brilliant and I wish that there had been something like this when I was starting out.
“Sport plays such a huge and positive role in people’s lives – it’s very much as important as the academic side of things.
“To combine the two in one programme for young people in this area is a great development.
“Futsal is not as well-known as football but that is changing, and people who may never excel at football can definitely do so at futsal.
“It’s really good to be at South Tyneside College and to be able to show students my skills and to talk to them about the scholarship.”
Rob Grainey, Head of Commercial Services at South Tyneside College, said John – and the new programme – were set to inspire a new generation of futsal players.
He added: “John has exceptional skills and it is great that so many young people in South Tyneside have been able to see him in action.
“It has given them an insight into how futsal can help them to develop tremendous sporting skills, just as it did John.
“The scholarship programme will give students the very best opportunity to learn futsal and gain high-quality sports and academic qualifications.”
John, 32, from Longridge, Lancashire, is a former futsal world champion and is classed as one of the world’s best football freestylers.
His many skill-based titles include eight Guinness world records, and last December he controlled a football dropped from a height of 137ft.
The record at times has been held by football stars including Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Theo Walcott.
At the end of February and into March 2018, he plans to kick and keep up a football during a 10-day trek to Everest base camp. Once acclimatised, he will attempt to ascend the mountain as far as possible.
Futsal, which is officially recognised by both UEFA and FIFA is a fast-paced and highly technical small-scale version of football, designed to develop greater improvisation, creativity and improved playing technique.
It is played between two teams of five players each, one of whom is the goalkeeper, with a smaller, harder ball, and unlimited substitutions are allowed.
The Futsal Scholarship Programme will see students work towards a BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma in Sport, which is worth up to three A-Levels.
They will enjoy regular coaching to develop technical, tactical and physical ability, and can represent South Tyneside College in FA and AOC competitions.
Successful course completion opens the door to university courses, careers in the sports industry and the potential to play futsal at the highest level in the UK.
To join the programme, which starts on September 18, students must have four GCSE’s A*-C including maths or English.
More information is available by calling South Tyneside College on 0191 427 3500 or by visiting www.stc.ac.uk