FOOTBALL: Standards in disability football across the region continue to rise at a speedy rate according to the Essex County FA’s John Manning, who witnessed dozens of games in the latest Soccability League meeting on Saturday 27 February at the Essex County High School for Girls in Broomfield Road, Chelmsford.
The Astroturf was awash with action as youth and adult teams from the north and south of the County competed for points towards monthly and overall tables. The League was formed in October to provide ‘Football for All’ and operates on a roadshow basis, this Chelmsford leg acting as the fourth of six during the season. Manning, who is involved in the development of inclusive football in Essex, has overseen a steep rise in disability participation and he believes this has led to an improvement in playing quality.
After covering several games himself as a referee, he explained: “I had a very privileged position on Saturday to be able to see all the football taking place. I couldn’t help but think back to the first festival I was part of in September 2008 and reflect on how much the standard of play has developed. As the players and coaches have become more used to the competitive elements of the League, they have adapted and improved.”
Each match day consists of ‘round-robin’ fixtures, this time including 42 in the adult leagues which generated 102 goals. While the youth games are played on a non-competitive basis, Basildon Soccability stole the headlines in the Adult Premier section while Rochford Disability B received the Championship plaudits. They were the monthly victors while both also top their overall leagues trailed by Rochford Disability A and Colchester Healthy 4 Life respectively heading into March’s Southend meeting.
“I believe we have two well-balanced sections to the adult league and one-sided results are now a one-off and not the norm,” John continued. “On Saturday you had players there who have been to England trials and play in a regional league, however the strength of this competition means it’s difficult to pick them out. For some clubs, like Basildon Soccability Academy, their development over the last year has been incredible, while for others like EPCP Spurs it hasn’t been as rapid but it’s no less significant.”
The competitive element is important to those participating though for Manning the sheer fact it is available for their enjoyment heralds a victory in itself. He added: “The vast majority of these players never thought they’d be part of a club let alone play in a league as football was always an option for peers or siblings but not necessarily for them. Their football experience would previously have been watching it on TV or playing it on a games console. Now they don their kit and participate in an organised league.”
For more information, or to register your involvement in the day, please contact John Manning on (01245) 393095 or via E-Mail email@example.com.