This continues to be any area where there is huge interest and under the inspiring leadership of Steve King, one of our trustees, we now have four teams who train weekly on Saturday mornings with varying levels of learning disabilities and mild physical disabilities.
There are currently over 40 players participating, with regular games and tournaments for all teams.
All teams attend matches at the Surrey Football for All League, travelling to the venue to play in a round robin of matches against other teams.
The overwhelming majority of participants stated that their personal fitness has improved since they started playing, as has their self-esteem, confidence, general health and social interaction.
We have four volunteers who help run this programme, one of whom works as our Special Educational Needs Schools Liaison officer, with a remit to forge relationships with schools in the borough and encourage pupils to come and play at Sutton United.
There had been a full programme in place from September 2019 until the end of February 2020 when, as with most sporting leagues and tournaments, these were curtailed due to Coronavirus.
During this short season the section continued to develop, with the teams being joined by an England CP (Cerebral Palsy) international who lives in the borough and who joined to improve his career.
On the pitch the teams continued to flourish and, following the leagues’ curtailments in March, our Disability first team were jointly awarded the league title with Woking and our Ganders team won the league 2 title, with both teams also being awarded the Respect Award by the league for the second year running.
Despite the abrupt halt to the season the teams continued through lockdown to look at ways of staying engaged and maintaining their health, culminating in an ‘Online Fixture’ in June 2020 against Fulham. In an evening enjoyed by all, both teams competed in a series of online challenges including a quiz and, with the game tied at 35 each, Fulham were declared the victors on a tie-break.
The section continues to inspire and engage and remain a flag bearer for Pan-Disability Football and inclusion.
The success that this area of community participation creates was recognised by Surrey FA with Steve King and his section being awarded both the Grassroots Project of the Year and Grassroots Adult Coach of the Year.
Steve was quoted as saying, “A big thank you to the Sutton United Youth & Community Foundation for the amazing support they have given the disability section.”
We have always been very proud of the work that has been done by Steve, his coaches and the players to establish the Pan-Disability section as one of the most admired set-ups in the south of England and we are delighted that Steve himself was honoured with the much-deserved accolade of Coach of the Year for all the passion and effort he freely gives.