Disability football participant inspires others following a difficult 18 months
Oliver Turnbull has been a shining light during the difficulties of multiple lockdowns, and his positive attitude has lifted the mood of those around him.
The kind, friendly and energetic character who has a learning disability has been involved with Albion in the Community for over 15 years and has established himself as an integral member of the disability football sessions.
Prior to the pandemic, the keen goalkeeper would often be found between the sticks at the weekly inclusive sessions and at the charity’s adult development programmes for people with a disability. But the emergence of the coronavirus created a stumbling block for Oliver.
The 35-year-old resides in supported living in Brighton and at first, struggled to understand the sudden changes and restrictions caused by the pandemic.
“The first lockdown was so difficult,” he reflected. “You weren’t allowed to do anything. I wasn’t allowed to play football and I found that very frustrating.”
Despite the personal challenges faced by Oliver, he acted as a role model to other participants with a disability and was supportive to the charity’s younger participants in online sessions.
As lockdown restrictions started to lift earlier this year, his support workers believed it wasn’t appropriate for Oliver to return to face-to-face sessions as adults with a learning disability are at a considerably higher risk from Covid-19. Therefore, he was forced to shield for a longer period, but maintained a positive and upbeat demeanour via Zoom at the charity’s weekly online sessions.
Albion in the Community’s (AITC) disability manager Paul Brackley has been thoroughly impressed with Oliver over the last 18 months.
“He is such a positive character and is always very appreciative of what AITC offers him. He has had his struggles during the last 18 months and we have been there to help him through those times and keep him feeling positive and motivated.
“He has provided a lot of support to other participants during our online sessions, encouraging and motivating them as well as just being a friendly, positive and happy person. He is a fantastic character to have involved in our sessions and we are proud of the role he plays helping others.”
As coronavirus cases started to fall in May, Oliver returned to AITC’s disability football sessions and a sense of normality returned to his day-to-day life. Later that month, he took part in an special opportunity to play on the pitch at the Amex Stadium, where participants from the charity’s disability sessions graced the playing surface of the Amex.
With national lockdowns hopefully in the rear-view mirror, Oliver can now focus on two things: Socialising with friends and playing football with a smile on his face.
Knowing Oliver, it’s unlikely he’ll struggle with the latter.