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Dad Describes How Football Helps 'Severely Disabled' Sons

Sponsored by FA
Sponsored by FA
Dad Describes How Football Helps 'Severely Disabled' Sons

Five-a-side may be a pastime that conjures up heroic memories for many an office worker up and down the country, with Colin from accounts turning into Ronaldinho the minute a Nike Ordem lands at his feet at the local leisure centre every Tuesday night, but there are still plenty of people who feel excluded from the pint sized version of the beautiful game.

And that's where The FA People's Cup aims to help out.

Originally formed in 2015, the Football Association runs the competition in partnership with BBC Get Inspired and over the last three years it has become the largest and most inclusive small-sided football tournament in the country.

With 18 different categories available to anyone who wishes to enter, everyone from U14 males and females to over 50's and walking footballers can enter, with disabilities catered for at both youth and adult level.

In the competition's first year, over 30,000 people took part and last year that number had raised to 45,000 and the beauty of the tournament is that ability and skill are secondary to getting involved and enjoying yourself.

Of course, that's not to say there's not plenty of immensely talented players taking part in The FA People's Cup, but it's stories such as that of Crawley Old Girls that really stand out.

The Crawley Old Girls first entered The FA People's Cup in 2016, in the Adult Female and Female Veterans categories, taking four teams to Portsmouth for the opening round of the competition. On that occasion Crawley advanced to the finals in Sheffield and, as a blog entry on their official website proves, they loved every minute of their competitive debuts:

"We have to say that the first ever competitive games we played, as Crawley Old Girls, were at The FAPeople's Cup and we absolutely loved it. The experience of playing competitive football inspired us to want to do it more often and we've certainly done that since! We were up against some ladies who had reformed teams from their playing days but we made some great friends and the camaraderie on the day will always be remembered."

Last year saw an increase in the number of teams in the Female Veterans category, with the Hackney Jurassics (incredible name for a team) retaining their title. So why not get involved and help increase the number of teams even further in 2018? Not just in the Veterans' division but across all the female categories?

But it's not just in the female categories where heroic stories are waiting to be written. The story of Nick Elgar and the Woking Wolves best typifies what The FA People's Cup is all about.

The Wolves are a disabled team coached by Nick and featuring his two sons, JJ and Alex, both of whom were diagnosed with the rare genetic disorder, Fragile X at a young age, in the line up. They took part in the competition last year, with Nick talking to the BBC about the experience of coaching his sons at a competitive level.

"My boys were always playing football. When they were young we would have kickarounds in the garden, they loved anything to do with football.

"As babies, Joseph and Alexander were diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome, which is a genetic mental disability and both boys are considered severely mentally disabled.

People's Cup
People's Cup

Nick Elgar coaches his two sons, Joseph and Alexander, who play for disability team Woking Wolves. Both Joseph and Alexander suffer from Fragile X syndrome and have competed in the FA People's Cup. Image: BBC

"They're involved with friends down at the football club. They do things socially. To play against other teams in an organised football match is everything to them."

With two rounds to progress through before the Finals are held at St. George's Park in April, and a chance to be at Wembley for the Emirates FA Cup Final in May, could your FA People's Cup dreams come true this season?

But with the first round regional stages taking place across the country the week beginning Monday 19th February for University and college students wishing to enter and then between Friday 23rd and Sunday 25th February for everyone else, teams need to make sure they are registered as soon as possible with the closing date for applications being Sunday 18th February.

You can register for this year's FA People's Cup HERE. Registration is open now.

Featured Image Credit: BBC

Topics: Football News, BBC, Football, FA

Joe Baiamonte
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