13th October 2022
Brighton and Hove Albion football success thanks to Pulborough's Purple Bus youth project
For Evie Stauss her love of playing football went from a bit of fun to something much more following a kick about on Pulborough’s recreation ground.
Now the 12-year-old has been named star player twice in four weeks after joining Brighton and Hove Albion’s Girls Advance Centre under 13’s team, based at their elite performance centre in Lancing.
“I have always been quite sporty,” Evie said, admitting she also loves gymnastics. “I was playing football at home in the garden with Joseph, my brother.”
But a change at school meant she started playing football much more.
Mum Victoria said: “She got split up from her friends in year six and most of her friends were in the other class and she had mainly boys in her class. All they did at lunch was play football.”
Along with her new friends, they started going along to sessions on the green run by the Purple Bus, which was set up at Pulborough’s recreation ground across from St Mary’s CE Primary School, and funded by Active Sussex.
Andy Wright, Strategic Relationship Manager (Children & Young People), from Active Sussex said: “Our role was firstly to meet the owners of the ‘Purple Bus’, Sussex Clubs for Young People, to understand their project proposal and to support them to meet the funding criteria of ‘helping children in an area of inequality to get more active’.
“It’s been a tricky time to establish a new club, but with a little support and patience, this project has grown into a real success and has produced some positive stories.”
It was with the Purple Bus that Zeba Ghorishi was running football training sessions for two hours every week.
“I was coaching for Pulborough on a Wednesday afternoon,” Zeba explained. “I was trying to help the young people with technique and football play.
“I developed their skills and recognised Evie’s potential. I said to her mum ‘she needs to join a football team as she has potential and it would be a shame to waste it’. She did not know the right pathway.”
As Zeba used to work for Albion in the Community, as well as once playing for Brighton and Hove Albion and trialling for Chelsea FC, she got in touch with a former colleague.
This led to Evie being invited to try out for the Girls Advance Centre at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre in Lancing.
Evie said: “I did not realise I was that good to train at a performance centre.
“I had to do trials to get in – 16 of us got in out of 36. All the other girls play for a club.
“I have been doing it for four weeks and I have made quite a few friends already. I just really love it. I have had star player twice.
“Everytime we do different things. Yesterday we did defending. You do the warm up running drills and then you get into a little game with two teams and defend them. Then you have a ten minute game.
“It is nice to be playing with people that are good at playing football.”
Mum Victoria cannot speak more highly of the Purple Bus.
“You pay so much for clubs,” she said. “The children just seem to click with it [the Purple Bus] a bit more, perhaps because it is a bit more relaxed. There is no pressure. They just play. They are not expecting to be anything. They were just having fun – but then it turned into more.
“We need more people to be aware of the Purple Bus,” she added. “I do not think they get enough praise. They are here every week.”
Sheri Birch, western area team manager for Sussex Clubs for Young People said it was vital projects like this come to areas like Pulborough.
“We want to make sure Pulborough young people have access to something they can do,” she said.
“Throughout the summer we got up to 80 young people.”
The Purple Bus offers more than just football sessions, with arts and crafts and healthy eating sessions also taking place.
But Sheri would like to develop the active offering even further if more funding becomes available.
“There is no women’s team or girls’ team and as a resident I would love to see a girls’ football team here,” said Sheri.
Although Zeba is currently not involved in the football sessions due to work commitments she hopes to join in again in the future.
When asked why she thought the sessions with the Purple Bus are great she said: “I think it is the social skills; it builds up confidence within individuals, and it allows young people with special needs or disabilities to take part in certain activities that they would not feel confident to do.
“It is about progression and pathways for individuals as well. For me to be able to point out the ability of Evie and give her a great pathway in life is so rewarding.”
You can find the Purple Bus at Pulborough Recreation Ground every Wednesday between 3.30pm and 5.30pm.