A school located at the heart of a well-known breeding ground for Premier League talent has angered health campaigners by banning traditional leather footballs.
Malvern Primary, in Huyton, Merseyside, has told parents their children can only use sponge footballs in the playground for health and safety reasons.
The town is known as a hotspot for youth football, giving rise to stars including Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, Newcastle United's Joey Barton and Everton legend Peter Reid - who also had spells managing Manchester City, Leeds United and Sunderland.
Anti-obesity campaigners said the sponge ball rule was at odds with Huyton's reputation of producing a string of footballing greats.
Tam Fry, chairman of obesity prevention charity the Child Growth Foundation, told the Liverpool Echo: "Children must be exposed to risk, otherwise how can they be expected to learn?
"Schools should be places to learn. They may think they are protecting the children but they could just as easily fall over playing with a sponge ball.
"Policies like this mean our children are in danger of becoming cocooned cotton buds."
A spokesman for Knowsley Council said: "Malvern Primary School treats the health and safety of its pupils as a top priority and has for a long time had a policy of protecting children by recommending sponge balls in the playground before school starts and during breaks - especially as the playground accommodates children from the age of four to 11 years old."