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Disability Sport testimonials

Alessio Verrecchia

Hey guys my name is Alessio, I’m 20 years old and I play with and help to run the Cambridge over 16 cerebral palsy football team.

I didn’t have the best start to life, I was in and out of hospital for the first few years and had a kidney transplant at the age of 2, my first introduction to sport was in 2002 when I competed in the British transplant games, the games are an annual event which lets children and adults who have either donated or received an organ with the main aim is to get more people to sign up to become organ donors, I continued to go the games until 2005 and have now gone to each of the past 4 years.

I was happy growing up and didn’t let anything stop me doing what I wanted, unfortunately my legs got tighter and tighter to the point that surgery was needed.

In November 2009 I underwent reconstructive ankle surgery as well as getting my hamstrings lengthened. The recovery was long and tough, I spent three months in a wheelchair then had to learn how to walk again but gradually things got better and my mobility improved massively from where it was before the operation.

After the operation I started to fall more and more in love with football. I started playing with my brothers in the back garden, with my friends at school, I started to support arsenal and go London with my dad and brothers to watch them.

Over the next few years life was pretty good, but yet again I had another obstacle to face, my transplanted kidney gradually deteriorated and I was eventually put on the transplant waiting list, amazingly it was just over a week before we got the call that a kidney was available, on the 13th November 2012 I received my second kidney transplant. So now with everything sorted nothing could stop me.

My dream was to one day play for a team of my own and just play football on a regular basis.

I found the Cambridge United cerebral palsy session about 2 years ago, I emailed Phil Mullen who runs the session and he invited me to come along, I haven’t looked back since then,

The sessions consists of kids and adults of all ages and abilities playing football and having fun. As I went to more and more sessions I found my football improved, I made more and more friends and my responsibility within the group increased. Now along with my friends Simon and Fraser I help run parts of the cerebral palsy session and hopefully gain my level 1 coaching certificate.

I now hope the group continues to grow and grow and for us to have our first competitive match in the near future.

(The picture is of me with medal I received when me and the cerebral palsy group went to impington for the football festival)

Cambridge United welcomed Alessio Verrecchia as the Ethos Community Hero of the Day for the Sky Bet League Two fixture with Wycombe Wanderers.

Emily Ward

Emily Ward, a parent of a participant involved with our disability sport programme, said: "I completely totally recommend this. My Little Man is almost totally socially isolated because of his difficulties. At Phil's football sessions he's been welcomed with open arms, and supported to participate in a safe, structured, understanding environment. It has done WONDERS for his self-esteem. It speaks volumes that, returning recently after a break, he bounced in happily and was 'nutmegging' with the rest of them in no time."

Nathan Fisher

"The trust has helped me to build my confidence, make new friends, learn and develop skills (mentally and physically) and most importantly have fun in the process."

Paul Clark

"I am delighted to be able to take part in the weekly football sessions with Cambridge United, Steel Bones and Cambridgeshire FA.

As a football supporter and many years ago a player, this has given me the opportunity to play the wonderful game we all love again.

This has given me the opportunity to meet new people all with different backgrounds, to be able to work as a team, support and motivate each other as well as providing exercise. "

Nick Barrett

"I would personally like to thank you for spotting me on parkers piece and cambridge united community trust for providing the facilities to enable me to play football again on Saturdays. It has really helped me to come to terms with my disabilty I was totally abled bodied for 35 years of my life and played saturday football for Bottisham but in2012 I had my second operation to remove a brain tumour during which I suffered a stoke and had to learn everything again from standing up. I am still not great at running as you have seen but I am certainly moving a lot better and have much better balance so don't fall over as easily and I put that down to your saturday session that works me hard and makes me move a lot more than is normal so it's basically brilliant for me good exercise playing a sport I thought I would never play again so it's good for my physical and mental health."

Thomas Rathband

"I have been playing Cerebral Palsy football with Cambridge United for 5 years, I started when I was 7.
I really enjoy playing football, it keeps me active and helps me with my physio on my leg. The players are very nice and friendly and we play some great matches,
For the past year I have been on the England Talent Pathway, which I found out about through these sessions and hopefully one day I'll play for England.
I am really grateful to everyone at Cambridge United for running these sessions and giving children like me the opportunity to follow their dreams.
Thank you!"

Phil Mullen, Disability Sport Officer for Cambridge United Community Trust, recently won Coach of the Year in the Cambridgeshire FA Grassroots Football Awards

“I am very proud to be part of the team that runs Cambridge United Community trust's disability sport programme which has been named Cambridgeshire FA Grassroots Community Project of the Year. Over the past few years I have seen the disability football sessions go from strength to strength. From offering two sessions, one for Cerebral Palsy players and one for Down's Syndrome players when we first started , this has now increased to 11 separate impairment specific sessions per week including. Amputee, Autistic Spectrum Disorder/Learning disabilities, Blind, Visually Impaired, Deaf /hearing impaired, powerchair, manual wheelchair & frame users.

We also now have an annual disability football festival, hosted by Histon Hornets FC. I look forward to building on this success and growing the disability sport provision even more in the future.

I am truly honoured & humbled at being named Cambridgeshire FA Grassroots Football Coach of the Year. I get my reward at every session I coach, when I see lots of smiling faces and hear lots of giggles from people having fun, this award is the icing on the cake. I would like to thank all of my players for being amazing and great fun to coach and all the parents and carers who give their time to bring players to sessions, you are my heroes.

I would like to thank Cambridge United Community Trust who have helped and supported me to achieve my goal of providing fun football sessions for all.”

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