Supporting Archie to participate
Albion in the Community (AITC) is the area’s largest provider of football opportunities for people with a disability, with the charity’s 30-plus sessions regularly attended by more than 500 people.
As well as its inclusive, pan-disability sessions, AITC has a range of disability-specific clubs aimed at providing a level playing field to those taking part.
Archie Little is a regular at the charity’s session for people with Down’s syndrome, which take place at the American Express Elite Football Performance in Lancing. His Dad, Adam, was full of praise for the impact joining the session with AITC has had on his 15-year-old son.
“It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done,” he said. “Archie really enjoys the sessions and they’re a highlight of the week, he loves it.”
Currently there is no national disability-specific league for players with Down’s syndrome, but AITC is driving plans to launch one and the charity regularly arranges friendly matches with community schemes from other professional clubs – something Archie certainly enjoys.
“We’ve been to watch him play against teams like Arsenal and Charlton,” explained his dad. “To him that was almost like a mini World Cup tournament in itself.
“He’s a big Brighton & Hove Albion fan so when he’s able to put the kit on himself and play under the name of the charity he gets really excited.”
Mr Little also spoke about the extra confidence he’s seen develop in Archie compared to when the Seagulls’ fan first got involved with AITC. “When he first joined the sessions,” he explained, “Archie would very much play by himself and wouldn’t really interact too much. But when they played against Arsenal recently he got straight in there and was sliding about and passing to teammates; he’s loving it and that was probably the best I’ve seen him play.
“That all comes through the training he does with the charity. There’s a big age range within the group too and that’s fantastic. When Archie started he was the youngest. He’s 15 now and started a few years ago – now the youngest player is about four.”
And Mr Little was keen to recommend the session to other parents – and reserved special praise for the charity’s coaches.
He said: “If the child likes football then this is the best thing to do. Sometimes it can be hard to find the right team but as soon as we took Archie along he absolutely loved it.
“The coaches are fantastic; they make sure everyone’s joining in and I can’t speak highly enough of AITC.”
For information on AITC’s disability sessions, email: email@example.com.