The Manchester United Foundation are holding weekly football sessions for people with disabilities to encourage inclusivity within the Salford community.

The disability and inclusion coordinator Matthew Pilkington stated that the sessions in Broughton “massively benefit” the community as they provide a safe space for young people to socialise.

Matthew Pilkington added: “We’ve seen people with a wide variety of disabilities playing football together. Football has the power to bring people together from diverse backgrounds, ages, genders so why should there be any difference with disabilities.

“It also massively benefits the community, we’re now seeing young people socialise outside of sessions together, they’re making friends and creating an out of school bubble which is massive for us and the community as well.”

Four separate sessions for separate age groups are held at the Cliff training ground for all ages from five-25 years old. The weekly sessions are held on a Friday.

Ability Counts is a Pan-disability football programme that allows people of all disabilities whether they are sensory, physical or neurological to take part in football sessions and play the beautiful game.

These sessions have been going on for over 20 years according to Matthew, who has arranged these sessions for the past three and a half years.

The sessions are being held on Fridays in Broughton, Salford.

Within Greater Manchester, there is a specific league for these teams.

The Greater Manchester Ability Counts League is the main league and is key within the growth of disability football in the county.

It gives people of all ages an opportunity to play football and represent their clubs.

Pan-disability football teams play every fortnight at Salford Sports Village at several different age levels.

At Cliff sports village, they run girls only disabled sessions which allow girls who may have an impairment the opportunity to play, volunteer or manage.

Pilkington mentioned how this participation grew after the success of the lionesses and that they now see girls as young as six attending the sessions.

One of the key outcomes from the sessions is helping the participants, once they’ve finished playing football, to try and get paid work which has happened now with three members of staff who went from football players to volunteers to now leading on sessions as football coaches.

This gives the participants something to aim for and helps to make these roles a more diverse place.

Image taken by Ellie Dodd.

He spoke on the specific changes they make to their regime to inclusively accommodate their participants, saying: “Within disability football you’ve got a four-year banding which provides a little more flexibility than mainstream football where you’ve only got a one-year age gap, so sometimes people might drop down to try and find their right level which will benefit them and to make sure that they’re maximizing their time within the session.”

The ability counts session on a Friday just happen in Salford but Street Reds, the community element of the foundation, have many sites across Greater Manchester, so young people with disabilities and non-disabled people who don’t feel confident to attend the other sessions can attend these.

Sign communications are available throughout the session, and they aim to be fully inclusive to allow anyone with any type of disability to attend and enjoy themselves.

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