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Ability Counts offering young level playing field

3 Sep 2016

Man Utd stars surprise members of Foundation's programme at training

Teenage players with Manchester United Foundation's Ability Counts programme had the surprise of their lives when first-team players joined one of their skills sessions.

Anthony Martial, Marouane Fellaini, Phil Jones, Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo, Sergio Romero and Sam Johnstone saw how Ability Counts inspires young people with sensory, physical and neurological impairments or disabilities. The players joined drills with the youngsters and offered tips at the club's Aon Training Complex.

Man Utd Foundation Ability Counts
Anthony Martial, Marouane Fellaini, Phil Jones, Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo, Sergio Romero and Sam Johnstone meet players from the Foundation's Ability Counts project

One participant was Chris, who plays for United's Deaf Team. The 16-year-old described how the programme helps him.

"I’ve been playing with United for six years now," he said. "I really enjoy training, it's quite challenging at times.

"I've just joined the adult 11-a-side deaf team which is harder but that's what I want to experience as it's my dream to be a professional footballer when I'm older. I play for a hearing team as well so I can do both - hearing and deaf teams - which is really good.

"I’ve enjoyed playing on the Academy pitch and meeting the famous footballers, they're quite a bit bigger than me! I was a bit nervous coming here but really excited; I didn't know we would meet the footballers but I thought they might be around the training ground. 

"I had a kickabout with Martial which was really good, he’s very fast and skilful!”

Dylan, 14, added: "I can’t wait to go back to school and tell everyone about today - they will be so jealous!"

Dylan, 14, from Ability Counts has a keepy-uppy challenge with Marouane Fellaini
Dylan, 14, from Ability Counts has a keepy-uppy challenge with Marouane Fellaini

Ability Counts offers young people the chance to play or coach football on a weekly basis, with training taking place at United's Cliff Training Ground. 

"You could hear the gasps as they met all these players they've watched on television for years," Ability Counts coach Danny Boylan said. "Now they've been able to pass and receive the ball with them and have a laugh and joke. 

"Ability Counts helps players feel comfortable while having some fun. It offers a level playing field to play football and forget about the things that might hold them back whether it be physically or physiologically. 

"For me it's the best thing in the world to see young people taking these opportunities that they wouldn't normally have and it's all thanks to the work of the Foundation."

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