In December last year I was in Costa do Sauipe on the Brazilian coast to help with the draw for the FIFA World Cup 2014. The excitement around the tournament has been growing steadily since qualifying for the competition began and now, some 130 days from kick-off, in this World Cup year, everyone is looking forward to the summer.
Come June the eyes of the world will be on Brazil as four-weeks of terrific football featuring some of the world's greatest players gets underway. For every professional player at the tournament this will be the pinnacle of their career - representing their country at the World Cup. It is a dream for every footballer in every corner of the globe and is most likely a dream they have held since they first kicked a ball.
But every player, and indeed every World Cup dream, has to start somewhere. The global superstars on show in Brazil all came from youth football and I am certain that every single one of them fondly remembers where their football journey began and, perhaps more importantly, who helped them.
I, of course, realised my ultimate dream in 1966. But this would not have been possible were it not for the volunteers who helped me play football when I was growing up and then later at my first club Chelmsford Boys, now known at Chelmsford City Youth FC.
Chelmsford City Youth FC is just one of thousands of clubs across the UK whose impact goes far beyond giving kids the chance to play football or finding the next England star. Clubs play an important role in communities - they help youngsters develop social skills away from the pitch and grow community bonds through the volunteers, whether they're washing the kit, groundsman, driving the team bus or a qualified football coach.
This video is an example of one such club whose volunteers all work together to benefit the young players and the local community as a whole:
We can't underestimate the importance of the grassroots game and the impact it has on football fans across the country, young and old. Everyone who ever made it in football, including those at the World Cup this year, started out playing somewhere, be it on the streets, in a park or at school.
Footballers are heroes to millions of children. But to the footballers the heroes will be those from their past who worked week in week out to help them enjoy the game. We should not, in a year featuring all the glamour of the World Cup, forget the grassroots heroes across the UK who give up their time and energy to help young players develop their love of the sport.
Once again this year, McDonald's, together with the national football associations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, are supporting the community football awards. These awards aim to celebrate the men, women, clubs and leagues across the UK who help keep the national game alive and help to provide the professional players of tomorrow. But these volunteers, and the game, need your help.
Nominations for the 2014 grassroots awards across the four home nations are now open. Please visit www.mcdonalds.co.uk/awards to nominate YOUR grassroots heroes; whether it's a coach, volunteer, team or league.
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