Liz Connor speaks to Super Frank, Chelsea FC’s all-time top goalscorer, about inspiring a new wave of young people onto the pitch.
The former Chelsea player and dad-of-four has been hosting free coaching for kids at Wembley Stadium this week, as part of McDonald’s Fun Football programme, a joint initiative with the FA to give children aged 5-11 access to football.
As the reigning all-time record scorer for Chelsea, with 211 goals in total, Lampard knows a thing or two about success on the pitch. We caught up with the Stamford Bridge icon to talk about life as a parent, and why it’s important to get children involved in sport at a grassroots level…
Why do you think football is such a great sport for kids?
“The idea of being healthy and exercising at a young age is hugely important, and the benefits are very clear for me.
“Initiatives like Fun Football, where we give kids aged 5-11 the opportunity to get out and play football in a team environment are great, because not everyone gets those opportunities easily.”
How important was it for you to have an active upbringing?
“I was lucky enough to grow up in [a household] where my dad had played football, so I kind of fell into it, but it was also something that I always wanted to do.
“I joined my local team at five years of age in my local park, and just loved being on the move. It’s now something I try and encourage my kids to do, to whatever level.
“We’re not necessarily looking for the next England players of the future, at this age, it’s just important to enjoy your football. As a parent, enjoying getting moving and staying healthy is something you’d always want to pass down to your kids.”
You’re a dad to Luna, aged 15, Isla, 14, Patricia Charlotte, 2, and now Freddie, 5 months. Is raising your kids to be active a big priority for you?
“It is, among other things. Personally, I want them to have good manners and be polite -that’s first and foremost at home.
“During the last 18 months, where there have been a lot of challenges and difficulties for people, the times you could get to an outside space and move around were so important. In our household, we really savoured that bit of time to get out together.”
What are your tips for getting kids moving?
“The modern world lays down different challenges, especially with social media and computer games. There’s nothing wrong with those things, I just try to have a bit of balance at home.
“I have two older girls who love their TikTok, and then my other two are pretty young, so they’re not at that stage yet. Whatever age they are though, it’s [about] simple things, like coming up with little games at home and tapping into whatever they’re into.
“It may be football, or it may be another sport, but just make [that activity] they love easy and accessible for them.”
How’s it been becoming a dad again during lockdown?
“It’s something I’ve really enjoyed. It’s my first son – so I have three girls and a little boy now.
“With my work situation – and because of Covid too, I’ve been around a lot for my younger two in recent months, and having that time at home to do some really simple things that sometimes my job took away from me, has been a small blessing in a difficult time.
“I’ve enjoyed that side of it. The kids are good and [Freddie] is a good boy now. He’s sleeping and eating and smiling; doing all the right things, so we’re happy.”
How do events like the European Championships inspire kids to get active?
“The positive feeling around the England team, especially with them getting to the final, was a huge deal, and something we haven’t felt for a long time.
“It’s important for children to have role models and to see the youth in the squad.
“A lot of the players were playing their first tournament at 20 years of age, and they were playing grassroots football not so long ago. I think it really gives young boys and girls something to aspire to.”
Does more need to be done to make football accessible to women and girls?
“I do think so. Speaking generally about the game, from when I was younger and in my playing career, there were not the same opportunities [for women and girls].
“It’s also the perspective of how we saw the sport of football. I think the best thing that’s happened over the past few years is the respect the women’s game has got, the high-profile [nature] of some of the tournaments they’re playing in and the quality levels the women’s teams are producing – whether it’s England or Team GB.
“It comes back to role models for young girls to look up to, and to feel they can play and enjoy the game as much as their male counterparts.
“We need to keep pushing on that, as it’s something we can improve. We’ve got the women’s Euros coming next year, which will be a great showpiece for young girls to see their heroes in action.”
Frank Lampard is asking parents to sign-up to McDonald’s Fun Football sessions, free for children aged 5-11 at more than 350 centres UK wide. Find your nearest centre at: mcdonalds.co.uk/football