Thursday 28 March 2013
Youngsters from around the country visited West Bromwich Albion last week to compete in the third annual Premier League Down's Syndrome Football Festival.
The Festival, which took place thanks to a £7,500 donation from the Premier League and Football Aid, was the biggest yet with over 150 players from 14 different clubs from the Down's Syndrome Association's (DSA) DSActive programme taking part.
Former Sunderland, Everton and West Bromwich Albion player Kevin Kilbane, who is a patron of the DSA, was on hand to watch the action and he said he was impressed with the skills on show.
"It was a pleasure being part of the third consecutive Premier League’s Down’s Syndrome Football Festival this year," said Kilbane. "The event really is the best way to showcase what the players have learned throughout the last 12 months in a way that is enjoyable not only for them, but for everybody watching as well.
"The standard of football on show has improved greatly year on year and I was truly amazed by yesterday’s display. I'm excited to see just how far these players can progress."
"I'm excited by the continued growth of the programme and I very much look forward to being a part of that"
The event is part of the DSActive programme, which aims to get as many children and young people with Down’s syndrome playing football in an environment that is comfortable yet competitive.
Newcastle United Foundation head coach Reggie Dornan said: "The NUFC Foundation were delighted to take part once again in the Premier League's Down's Syndrome Football Festival. Our players look forward to it for months in advance and the parents even more so!
"Despite illness in the camp, we managed to make the long journey and give a great account of ourselves and our progression over the last 12 months. We recently hosted our own successful mini-festival and, and we very much hope to build on the success of these events by taking part in regular competition with other DSActive teams throughout the season."
After some warm-up activities that involved all the youngsters, the younger players then enjoyed a series of fun games and took part in a demonstration from the Tennis Foundation while the older ones joined their teams for the round-robin tournament.
The teams were split up into three groups, with one team from each group claiming the winners' trophy.
The teams involved in each division were:
Red: Cardiff City DS Bluebirds (winners), Charlton Upbeats, Ipswich Town Mini Tractors, Newcastle United DSActive, QPR Tiger Cubs
Blue: Coventry City (joint winners), Fulham Badgers (joint winners), Moorside Rangers, Northampton Town DSActive, QPR Tiger Cubs
Yellow: DSActive Allstars (winners), Hull City Tigers DSActive, Moorside Rangers DSActive, Swindon Town DSActive, West Bromwich Albion DSActive
"I was delighted to once again take charge of the DSActive Allstars at the festival; it was an honour to be part of the fun and to watch a group of players from different teams not only play well together, but to achieve the magnificent feat of winning their group," said DSA Trustee and DSActive All Stars coach Darren Warkcup.
"I have been part of the DSActive programme since assisting the launch of the QPR Tiger Cubs in 2008, and it's fantastic to see how the programme has blossomed since then. I'm excited by the continued growth of the programme and I very much look forward to being a part of that."