Members of the Norwich City Powerchair Football Team received a special visit from Community Sports Foundation trustee Jake Humphrey and former Canary star Simon Lappin at a training session this week.
The powerchair squad has been running for about 10 years and will be one of the groups to benefit from CSF’s ongoing project to develop a multi-purpose community hub in Horsford called The Nest.
The first phase of the project - which cost £1.5m and included a renovated clubhouse and changing rooms, seven grass football pitches being relayed as well as new catering and accommodation facilities – was officially unveiled last month in front of 150 guests.
And now CSF need to raise a further £9.4m to carry out phase two of The Nest, which will see the creation of a floodlit 3G pitch, a gym and classroom facilities, with groups like the powerchair football club set to benefit from the new facilities.
Mike Coleman, 26, has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and has been playing with the team for nine years.
The team captain said: “A friend of mine recommended the club to me and it has gone from there. I’ve always liked watching normal football, so to be able to play myself in wheelchair football is very good.
“It helps me to get out and make friends and play on a level playing field. I love scoring goals and working as a team. I’ve made about 30 friends just from this team and I also meet people from all over the country when we are at tournaments.”
Mike and his fellow teammates were pleased to welcome Jake and Simon along to see them in action.
“It was good fun to have them here and it is good to raise awareness because a lot of people don’t know about the sport,” said Mike.
Jake and Simon - who also works for CSF as Football Development Officer, were given the chance to have a go in the chairs and said they were extremely impressed at the skills of the squad.
“I came in and saw them warming up and I looked at it and thought it doesn’t look that difficult – you are in the chair, you’ve got the controls and the joystick," said Jake. "And then I got strapped in and had a go and it’s so difficult. There are different levels on your wheelchair and those guys are on level five which is fast and responsive, and I was on level one and still struggling to control the chair. It was really impressive and really eye-opening.”
As a trustee, Jake is working alongside the CSF team to spread the word about the financial support needed for phase two of The Nest from potential funders and fundraisers, and how crucial the project is for groups like the powerchair football club.
He said: “Because of the kind of courses that the Community Sports Foundation run and the opportunities we give people and the funding that comes in from things like the BT and Premier League disability fund, it means that the money is there to spend time with young people who have got a disability. They can still play football, they can still do an event and come and take part in one of our sessions, and it is genuinely changing people’s lives.
“We’ve got people here who wouldn’t necessarily get out of the house, they wouldn’t speak to too many people and they wouldn’t have too much social interaction if it wasn’t for something like this. We are helping people to fulfil life-time ambitions and The Nest is going to allow us to do that for more and more people.
“And it is not just restricted to people with a disability in a wheelchair, we will be working with young people, cancer sufferers, people with mental health problems, people in the later years of life who still want to remain active. We want to reach thousands of thousands of people and the only way to do that is to have a bigger facility and make sure that phase two of The Nest happens.”
The powerchair football sessions are run by Darren Hunter, CSF’s Disability Development Manager, with 13 members currently attending training every Friday at City Academy Norwich.
Darren said: “Having Jake here and being one of our trustees as well is absolutely fantastic and it gives him an insight into what we do as well. The players have been so happy to have him and Simon here and for them to have a go in the chairs and actually see what it feels like and play is majorly important.
“There is still money to raise to build the sports hall that we need at The Nest, and it will help these guys so much because it is a difficult thing when you are hiring out different venues. City Academy has been fantastic for us but we are beginning to outgrow it a little bit and having The Nest will enable us to house the eight club chairs that we have now in our own facility.”
For more information about phase two of The Nest, and to find out how you can help the fundraising campaign, click HERE.
To watch our video of the powerchair team in action, click HERE.