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Stoke City making Anton feel part of the team

17 Oct 2017

How Stoke City and the PL/BT Disability Fund have enabled one fan to play for the club

Anton has a passion for sport but his cerebral palsy made it difficult for him to get involved.

As his mother Janine explains: "He loves his football and his tennis and he's asking, 'Where can I take that, Mum? I've got cerebral palsy and I don't know where I can go.'

"We'd watch the Paralympics and wonder, 'How did they get there? What did they do?' "

This is where the Stoke City Community Trust came to Anton's help.

With the help of the PL/BT Disability Fund, the trust helped form a junior Stoke City cerebral palsy team.

The involvement of the club that Anton loves has only increased the positive impact for him, on and off the pitch.

"He's a massive Stoke fan anyway, so he was ecstatic when the Stoke City guys came in," Janine says.

"Now he goes around bragging to his mates, 'I play for Stoke City, I play for a Premier League football team.'

"He loves it, and if that gives him happiness, it gives me happiness.

"He's changed a lot, in every way. His ability's improved because the training is a lot better than just us parents being out there and seeing what we can do.

'It's about people showcasing ability, not disability

"The training they put them through is probably like they would train any other team. The strength in that team, the strength in my son, is amazing.

"He's always been loud and bubbly anyway but he's got a lot more confidence now and his personality has grown so much.

"He has just started high school and he's got the confidence to think, 'I'm the only one who's disabled in the high school but it doesn't matter.' Stoke have given him that."

Anton's confidence was further boosted by last summer's disability sport festival at Stoke Mandeville, which celebrated the first anniversary of the PL/BT Disability Fund and featured teams from 20 Premier League and Football League clubs.

"They've made the kids think that they're like everybody else - just because they've got a disability of any form, they can be exactly like the next person," Janine says. "They can still play all at the same level. I was proud to be part of it.

"As much as we tell him he's not different - because everybody's different - to him he is. But since Stoke City have come in, and with Chelsea, Liverpool and Middlesbrough at the festival as well, he can see that he's not alone.

"It puts a massive smile on my face, because it tells me that my child can do what his friends do and my child can enjoy what he wants to enjoy.

"It's made them feel special, so then it makes us parents so emotional with happy tears, because you've made them happy. That's all that counts."

Anton is one of more than 100 people engaged each week by Stoke City Community Trust's disability programme.

See: Youngsters showcase their talent at Festival of Sport

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