Inclusion is at the heart of everything Manchester United Foundation does and nowhere is that more prevalent than at the PAN-disability football programme for young people aged 5-16 - Ability Counts.
Taking place each week, the session recently played host to a very special guest, United favourite – and one of the nicest men in football, may we add – Quinton Fortune!
Quinton’s visit was part of a match between players on our programme and players on the equivalent programme ran by LFC Foundation, to promote today’s game. Former Liverpool player Stewart Downing was also in attendance to provide further support for what was a memorable day for the young people.
Naturally, Quinton’s visit caused quite a stir among the participants, and they were not to be disappointed as the former South African international threw himself wholeheartedly into the session held at Eccles Sixth Form College!
“At the end of the day, these kids just want to play football and enjoy themselves, and it’s fantastic to see the Foundation giving them the opportunity to do so,” Quinton said.
“Many of the children here today go to special schools, so it’s harder to find somewhere that they can express themselves as players in a well-supported environment. It’s so great to see how much they love United and how much they love playing football!”
Signing for United shortly after the club secured the famous Treble in 1999, Fortune shared a dressing room with a many a club great and knows full well the importance of dedication when it comes to honing your skills as a player.
Passing on words of wisdom to the participants, Fortune watched on from the sidelines before getting involved himself, even encouraging United’s goalkeeper to “channel her inner De Gea”!
“The kids were so passionate about the game and it was played in such good spirit,” Quinton enthused “That said, you could see that both sides were desperate to win! It’s certainly inspired me ahead of Legends of the North.”
Matt Pilkington, disability and inclusion coordinator for Manchester United Foundation, added: “We train regularly, but it’s the matches that the kids really want to play. As good as training can be for them, you want to play against other teams and who better than your arch-rivals!
“It’s been a fantastic experience for all of them here today and Quinton was brilliant with the kids, passing on advice and getting involved – he was brilliant”
Offering young people with disabilities the opportunity to play or coach with Manchester United, Ability Counts focuses on players with a sensory, physical and neurological impairment or disability and sign communicators are present at all sessions.
The session also presents a number of opportunities for the team to compete against other teams in the area, including in the Greater Manchester Ability Counts League. If you think your child might like to attend a session, please click here, and don't forget that you can still get tickets to see Quinton in action in Legends of the North!