It was a brisk Sunday afternoon as things got underway at the London Inclusive Cup. Teams had travelled from far and wide to take part in the 6 a side football tournament hosted by London Tigers. There were two independent groups playing parallel to each other; with the teams split into mental wellbeing and pan-disability.
“A world where every individual has the opportunity to fulfil their dreams,” the charity’s motto echoed around the Spikes Bridge sports complex with every kick of the ball, as players with a variety of disabilities all came together as one to contribute to this wonderful tournament.
Geraint Wilson – manager of the Folkestone Invicta Disability team – said a tournament like this is a good chance for his players to take on a new challenge, outside the regular regime of training and matches. Discussing his players, he listed a variety of disabilities, ranging from Asperger’s to partial blindness. He stressed the importance of inclusion and acceptance, saying that everyone is welcome regardless of the type or severity of disability.
This was a sentiment shared by many of the managers, who told me that their clubs are happy to accommodate anyone with a disability who wishes to play football. Many of the teams that came on Sunday have setups that comprise a host of teams of different ability levels and competiveness.
The tournament was very well organised and fun for all, with special thanks to London Tigers’ own Caoimhe who masterminded the event. And with help from all of the Spikes Bridge team, the day ran smoothly and professionally, a true testament to the good work of London Tigers.
The format was simple, each team played every team in their group twice, with the top two teams playing each other in a final. Therefore, there was two trophies up for grabs, one for the pan-disability group and one for the mental wellbeing group.
The pan-disability group was comprised of 4 teams; Folkestone, Victory Hants, Basildon Soccability and the South Cymru Devils. The games last 15 minutes on typical 6 a side pitches and allows teams to make rolling substitutes. The standard of football was very good and a few players showed very good promise. The pan-disability final saw a multi-national clash, as Folkestone met Bridgend’s own South Cymru Devils (pictured below) in what proved to be a very entertaining final.
155 miles was the distance the Welsh side had to travel to get to the tournament. A visit that gaffer Rob Wellsby says is vital for his players, as the opportunity to play in competitions such as this are extremely limited back in South Wales. He hopes that pan-disability football receives more support and attention in the areaso that his team are given more chances to play in competitions similar to the one at Spikes Bridge. Nevertheless, plaudits must be given to the side for traveling the distance and putting on a great performance. The final proved to be one step too far however, as Folkestone (pictured below) beat them in the final 4-2 to claim the trophy.
The mental health wellbeing group was made up of 3 teams, with Brighton being joined by Basildon and Victory Hants. Players in this bracket deal with issues such as depression and anxiety among others. These games had the same rules as the other group and saw Brighton match up with Basildon in the final. A defensive thriller saw Brighton come out on top 1-0 and take home the trophy.
I spoke to some of the some of the players to get a gist of what a tournament like this means to them, with most expressing that it is a refreshing change from league play and exciting to be in a condensed format in new surroundings. Two of the Basildon Soccability pan-disability players – Liverpool fan Mark and Arsenal supporter Jack (pictured right) – said they enjoyed the experience, mentioning that this was a great opportunity to meet new people and just have fun playing the sport they love.
Congratulations and plaudits to all the teams that took part and a massive thank you for Caoimhe and the rest of the Spikes Bridge team who helped set this event up. London Tigers hope they can continue creating opportunities like this as well as raising awareness for both mental health wellbeing and pan-disability sports and activities.
19/02/17, Spikes Bridge Sports Complex