A penalty shoot-out competition has been launched to kick off support for Wales at the 2016 UEFA European Championship.
The Eagles Meadow shopping centre in Wrexham is going football crazy in the run-up to the tournament which marks Wales’s first appearance in a major international competition since the 1958.
The shoot-out challenge has been organised by Secure Parking UK, the company which took over the running of the shopping centre’s car-park in December.
They also want to celebrate Wrexham’s heritage as the birthplace of Welsh football and the original home of the Welsh FA.
Wrexham FC, established in 1864, is the oldest in Wales and the third oldest in the world.
Secure Parking say the drumming up support for Wales at the Euros is particularly appropriate because as the Racecourse is the world’s oldest international football ground still in use. The first international match was played there in 1877 when Scotland played Wales.
Over the next three weeks visitors to Eagles Meadow shopping have a chance to show their proficiency at the deadball spot-kick – and as an added bonus they’ll be in with a chance of winning a trip to football mecca Barcelona.
Every Saturday and Sunday throughout April motorists will receive a “score and win” pass entitling them have a go at the shootout competition. Each participant will have five goes, testing their accuracy at the inflatable goal.
The idea was the brainchild of Secure Parking’s marketing manager German Lopez-Rosero, who explained: “Those who score three goals or more over the next three weekends will be invited to participate in the final penalty shootout on April 30.
“The winner will get free flights for two to Barcelona, courtesy of British Airways, hotel accommodation for a weekend and a sightseeing tour of the city.”
German said the competition was open to young and old, and it was up to each ticket holder to decide who should have a go.
“Fathers may want to show their sons how good they are if they think they have a better chance of winning,” he said. “If they park here more than once father and son can have a go.”
He decided to launch the challenge because of the current groundswell of interest in soccer due to the forthcoming European championships.
“With Wales having qualified for a major championship for the first time in 58 years there is huge interest, and the Wrexham area has a particular role in the history of the game,” said German, who is himself Colombian.
“The club is the oldest in Wales and we are proud to be associated with it,” said German. “The club has produced many great players but this is the first time that a penalty specialist from the town will be able to boast that his skill took him to Barcelona.”
One local lad whose talent led him to playing for Barcelona, who are currently recognized as the best in the word, is Mark Hughes, from Ruabon, who had a glittering career and is now doing such a fine job as manager of Stoke City.
Among the first to have a go at earning the trip to Barcelona was five-year-old Brooklyn Owen from Hightown, a pupil at Ysgol Bodhyfryd, who, with the same name as David Beckham’s son, might have had some advantage.
“He’s football mad,” said his mother Michelle Edwards.
Eagles Meadow manager Kevin Critchley said: “The penalty shoot-out competitions is a great idea because Wrexham has always been a football-mad town and Wrexham FC is woven into the fabric of the area.
“Wrexham FC is the oldest football club in Wales and the third oldest professional football club in the world after Notts County (1862) and Stoke City (1863).
“And The Racecourse Ground, where the club first played, is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest international football stadium in the world that’s still in use.
“Wrexham’s place in football history is assured – we all hope that Chris Coleman’s boys can make some more history at Euro 2016.”