Disabled Bradford City supporter to take part in Play It Like A Pro thanks to Fans For Diversity
The Fans For Diversity (FFD) campaign is giving a disabled supporter the opportunity to participate in Bradford City Football Club’s Play It Like A Pro event today (Monday 11 April).
Play It Like A Pro, which is now in its fourth year, gives Bradford City supporters the chance to enjoy the complete Valley Parade matchday experience as a member of one of two special teams, who will play on the pitch at the Coral Windows Stadium.
In addition to playing at Valley Parade, participants on the day will enjoy a pre-match meal and warm-up on the pitch before the game. The supporters will also get changed in the Valley Parade dressing rooms and come out on the pitch to ‘Take Me Home’.
This year, thanks to the FFD Fans Fund, Stephen Haigh, a Bradford City supporter and a player for Bradford Disability Football Club with Ivic Syndrome, will have the chance to take part in the event. Stephen’s rare condition means that he is deaf and his ability to speak is severely restricted, as well as having delayed growth in his upper body which resulted in his arms being short and missing some fingers.
The event also coincides with Level Playing Field’s Weeks Of Action, which helps highlight the positive initiatives undertaken by clubs, sporting venues and their governing bodies in partnership with disabled sports fans and disabled supporters associations.
The FFD campaign was jointly launched by Kick It Out and the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) in March 2014. The campaign runs regular events aimed at encouraging and helping with the facilitation of fan-related activity that celebrates equality and diversity in football.
Anwar Uddin, the FSF’s Diversity and Campaigns Manager who leads the FFD campaign, was delighted to be able to provide the funding for Stephen to participate in the event.
“Play It Like A Pro is an excellent initiative that seeks to engage fans whilst raising some vital funds for Bradford City’s academy,” he said. “But I’m particularly happy that through our Fans Fund, we’ve been able to support the inclusion of Stephen in the initiative.
“The day promises to be an once-in-a-lifetime experience for Stephen and I look forward to seeing him show his fellow supporters what he can do on Monday.”
Jaimie Dorward, Bradford City Disability Liaison Officer and trustee of Bradford Disability Football Club, who contacted Anwar to apply for the funding for Stephen, believes the event will be an educational experience for everyone involved.
“We thought it would a great idea to see one of Bradford Disability Football Club’s best footballers get involved and for the other participants on the day to understand the barriers that you’ve got to overcome.”
“It will be a really great first-hand experience for them because it’s not just an educational course in a classroom, but an opportunity to actually deal with someone who’s deaf and who can’t talk and to overcome those communication barriers.”
Jaimie was also pleased that Stephen will have the chance to show everyone taking part what he’s capable of and break down negative stereotypes around people with disabilities.
“It’s important to promote a really positive image of disability,” she said. “I think out of all our players Stephen is known for being positive, for always smiling and always being happy.
“He’s an inspirational role model for the disabled community as someone who gets stuck in, gets involved and overcomes his barriers.”
Jaimie praised the work that the FFD campaign does to support equality and diversity amongst football supporters and expressed her hope that the event will have a lasting impact on those in attendance.
“What Anwar does to engage with individual fans and supporters groups in a positive way is very important. I think it’s really good that people can get a chance to put their ideas forward that they might not normally get to do through their club.
“I’d like to think that everyone attending Be Like A Pro will walk away with a different view of disabled people and pass on that message to their families or the people that they work with.”