Lincolnshire FA affiliated club Bottesford Town are not only paving the way for disability football in the county, but in the UK.
The club, who play in the Northern Counties East League, run a Bottesford Town Special Olympics team and have done so since January 2018, giving a dozen players aged between five and 25 with Down’s Syndrome the chance to get out on the pitch.
They’re even aiming to qualify as the Yorkshire and Humberside representatives at the Great Britain Special Olympics, which will be staged in Liverpool.
It is a far cry from the times when Lincolnshire players had to drive all of the way to Hull for the nearest footballing opportunity for Down’s kids.
Chairman of the club’s junior section, Steve Altoft, says that those with disabilities should be able enjoy football as much any other player.
Talking to The Telegraph, he said: “They have as much right to be included as anyone else. When I first got involved I admit I was a little apprehensive. But when people come and watch they are amazed and are really keen to help. It breaks down barriers both ways.”
Sue Parkinson, mother to club captain Jake, says it is a special feeling for her son to represent the team.
She said: “I can’t tell you how much he loves coming here. At home most things revolve around football. He’s always on Fifa, He watches and re-watches Match of the Day. But to come here and actually play, that’s the highlight of his week.
“Jake played in mainstream football till he was about six or seven. Everyone was very kind to him, but as he got older he couldn’t keep up. Here he is with players like him and he really blossomed. What’s great is he’s part of the club. They wear the same shirt as the first team. And the time they trained alongside the first team, you have no idea what it meant,” Parkinson continued.
The team train once a week inside the club’s sports hall, and whilst it is a competitive atmosphere, the welcoming and accepting aura, even down to all of the players celebrating when a goal is scored, is one of the great features of the Special Olympics team.
Altoft said: “Doesn’t matter which side scores, they enjoy a goal. It’s lovely to see.”
Jake also echoed those claims, suggesting that in his role as club captain, he is there to support everyone. “If someone wants to sit down for a bit I tell them it’s all right,” he says. “I let them have space.”
The number of participants in the team has doubled in the last year, with the amount of coaches now sitting at nine. Players are also coming from all over the county to get involved – indicating the great work being down with the club.
To read the Telegraph’s article in full, please CLICK HERE
If you want to find out more about Disability Football in Lincolnshire, please follow the link below.