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Palace's Down Syndrome team bring Hodgson joy

21 Mar 2020
Crystal Palace, DS Eagles

To mark World Down Syndrome Day, we look back at when the Crystal Palace manager saw how the club are helping Down's Syndrome footballers

Today is World Down Syndrome Day which is a global awareness event to celebrate the lives of people with Down's Syndrome.

We take a look at how Premier League clubs are engaging with people with Down's Syndrome and helping them with their social and communication skills.

Crystal Palace

For the last five years, Palace have been running the Down's Syndrome Eagles team through Palace for Life Foundation.

Up to 20 people per week attend the sessions, which help players develop their skills through small matches and training drills.

And in November of last year, the group had a special visit when Palace manager Roy Hodgson and Palace Women's players Freya Holdaway and Ashlee Hincks came down to take part in the session.

"Sometimes when you're working at the top level, you forget the real basics of what football means to people," Hodgson told the club's official website.

"We get caught up in the winning and the losing and the hype around the professional game, but really football is this; it's people coming out with their children on a cold autumn night and watching them enjoy themselves, with no worries about anything other than that.

"This group are just fantastic; their enthusiasm, their humanity and their affection, it's very difficult not to enjoy their company."

The DS Eagles players range in age from eight to 24 and, as well as training weekly, they take part in friendly matches and tournaments against other clubs.

"The young people who come here want to play football and they don't always have the opportunity to do that in mainstream teams. Here, they are welcome straight away," said the Foundation's disability manager Michael Harrington.

"For these players to represent Palace is such an incredible thing for them. To know that Roy and the Palace players have come down just to see them is a very special feeling."

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