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Hodgson: This is what football's all about

26 Nov 2019
Crystal Palace, DS Eagles

Crystal Palace manager sees how the club are helping Down's Syndrome footballers develop confidence and life skills

For the last five years, Crystal 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 social, communication and motor skills through small matches and training drills.

And the group had a special visit recently 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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