The day launched Inclusive Reds, Manchester United Foundation’s new inclusive sport and disability programme, which is supported by BT Sport and the Premier League. The main focus of the programme is to involve more disabled young people in sport within Greater Manchester. To achieve this we aim to provide opportunities to participate, support and volunteer in sport and physical activity, with the main focus being fun.
The day was a huge success with real talent and skill on display. The teams were led out through the centre tunnel to the Champions League theme music and the matches were officiated and managed by participants from the Foundation’s Volunteer Ninety Nine programme.
The matches were full of goals and had the crowd on their feet with the impressive displays. The two games finished 5-4 and 4-1 respectively and the participants had a taste of what it is like to play at the Theatre of Dreams.
17-year-old Leo plays for Ability Counts, the Foundation’s current disability programme, and scored two goals for the winning team in the first match. He said, “Walking out the tunnel with the music on was something that you can only imagine; it was a dream come true. I’ve been at Ability Counts for about five years and the opportunities provided are amazing, they’ve opened so many doors for me. The Foundation has really helped with my skills, confidence and my attitude on and off the ball.”
Matthew Glaister, another Ability Counts player, said, “I’ve got a season ticket and I’ve always really wanted to go on the pitch. Today I’ve come down the tunnel and played a game; it was really good.”
After the games the participants and their parents were treated to a conference panel of inspirational sports personalities discussing the new Inclusive Reds programme. Matt Gilmore, Power Chair footballer and league winner, spoke about his journey from wheelchair dancing to being involved with Manchester United Foundation:
‘I’ve been quite successful in dancing and was offered a place on the England team for wheelchair dancing. Basically dancing was too easy so decided to challenge myself by playing football. I really enjoy it and we even went on to win the National Championship last season.”
Kevin Elliot, a deaf player for Ability Counts prepared and signed a speech for the audience which outlined his achievements to date, thanking Ability Counts for boosting his confidence and passion for football.
Mike Kerr, former GB wheelchair rugby captain and Paralympian, also joined the panel and discussed the impact that sport had on his life. After he was paralysed from the chest down in an accident, his physiotherapist suggested he join a wheelchair rugby team. He hasn’t looked back and credits the sport for his recovery from the accident, helping him socially.