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Why we can’t let disability football fall by the wayside

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Why we can’t let disability football fall by the wayside

More than 100,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with this disability whilst one in 400 children are born with it.

More than 100,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with this disability whilst one in 400 children are born with it.  It affects muscle growth, balance and reflexes, but people with Cerebral Palsy (CP) are not letting their disability stop them doing what they love in life, and one of those things is playing football.

The Kickstart campaign was introduced to give two or three hour sessions to people who wanted to play CP football but had nowhere to go. Footballing hubs have since been set up in places such as Cambridge, Coventry Newcastle and Cardiff in 2014 and are still going strong today. 

By creating an environment for young talented players, the hope is some could go on and hit the back of the net for their country at the World Championships.

This has also coincided with the creation of the Disability Cup which is a version of the FA Cup for disability football. The Disability Cup offers tournaments for Cerebral Palsy football, Powerchair football and visually impaired football with finals being played at St George’s Park in May.

The Chair of the Disability Football Committee, Colin Chaytors, told the FA that he wants this to be a permanent fixture on the football calendar. He said:

We need to celebrate the achievements of those involved, whilst also raising awareness of the opportunities that exist for everyone with disability football.”

This will then give disability football the exposure it needs to get more people out onto the field and playing football which, in turn could lead to further increases in funding and opportunities for people to play.

The Paralympics has played a vital role in raising awareness of disability football and especially CP football. The problem is that this window of opportunity is only every four years, meaning that CP Sport can struggle to attract others to take part in events like Kickstart in between those Paralympic years. In addition, the sport was dealt a big blow last year when the Paralympic committee announced that CP would no longer be included at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020.

The Paralympic committee’s decision resulted in many clubs all over the country losing their funding, which meant the sessions they hosted were shut down. This left hundreds of CP football fans unable to play the game they love.

Luckily, in this country we have generous clubs and players donating their own money towards fantastic foundation academies which help disability sport.

In May, Southampton set up a new pan-disability league for locals which was held over three weeks at Hampshire Park. With the likes of former England CP international Martin Sinclair involved, Southampton are hoping to set up a full-time league which will be open to all ages and disabilities. Sinclair told the FA how excited he was to be an ambassador for the league, he said: “It gave me belief that we can inspire the next generation of kids and hopefully we can do that with everybody's help coming together."

[This article was written by Terry Hearn and edited by the Operating Team]

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016 - 15:49