Skip to main content

Celebrating our CP participants

This Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, Manchester United Foundation is highlighting its provision for young people of all abilities, but particularly its new FA Para Talent Hub for young players who are deaf or hard of hearing, blind or partially sighted, or have cerebral palsy.

| by Katie Newton

The Para Hub offers budding footballers the chance to embark upon an international pathway, despite their disabilities, and they are given the opportunity to play with like-minded peers on a level playing field. The sessions are Futsal-based and focus on ball manipulation.

The FA affiliated programme launched in October 2021 and is an extension of Manchester United Foundation’s Ability Counts programme, which offers players with disabilities the chance to play, volunteer or coach for Manchester United. Many participants that access the Talent Hub also attend Ability Counts to help develop their social skills and engage with a wider network of friends, however the Talent Hub offers further opportunities to hone their skills.
Matt Pilkington, disability and inclusion coordinator for the Foundation, said: “The impact of the Para Talent Hub has been fantastic; the players with cerebral palsy feel comfortable within the environment as the focus is on close control, whereas within mainstream activities CP players can often be overpowered by their peers.”
Finlay, 15, has been attending Ability Counts for seven years and now enjoys the development offered by the Talent Hub. He said: “Of the teams in the area that run inclusive footballs sessions, I was desperate to go United! I feel like these sessions are fair, as everyone is at the same level of disability. The people are really nice and the coaches look after you. They’re understanding if there are ever any disagreements on the pitch and they are really fair.”

Finlay’s mum, Vanessa, added: “He’s had so many fantastic opportunities since he’s been coming here and it’s boosted his confidence.”

Sadia travels from Bradford each month for her seven-year-old daughter Aysha to participate in the Talent Hub. “All of a sudden Aysha had this passion to be a footballer,” she said. “She was anxious that she wouldn’t fit in at first as she has cerebral palsy which affects her lower limbs, but once she was here she settled in and realised everyone has different disabilities and she felt part of something. It has done wonders for her confidence since coming here. Being included, being acknowledged, and realising that there are others with similar issues is so important.

“I love that the Foundation has a talent hub; there’s room for growth, there’s a pathway to follow and a belief that these children will achieve more.”

Another participant who travels for over an hour to attend the session is Alfie, a keen football player from Nantwich who has defied all the odds to partake in organised teams.

“After playing for his local team, we were introduced to the sessions at United through an England Talent Day in Northwich,” Alfie’s mum [name] said. “It takes us a while to get here, but it is so worth it.

“Everyone has been so lovely and welcoming since we started coming. The coaches tune into the children and pick up on their moods and their needs, which is so important, and Alfie has really enjoyed it,” she added. “We were told when he was about two or three that this kind of physical activity wouldn’t be possible for him. In fact, what they actually said was ‘he’ll never be able to play for Manchester United’ – I remember that every time we come here.

“Football is a universal language and it’s a community. To be part of the Manchester United community is brilliant and it’s great that they do things like this.”

To find out more about the FA Para Talent Hub or to register your child for future sessions please visit: