‘Season of Action’ match highlights disability football at Lewes
Ryman Premier Division side Lewes held a special day of football at the Dripping Pan on Saturday (6 September) for their dedicated ‘Season of Action’ fixture against Wingate and Finchley.
The Rooks recognised the work of Kick It Out on Non League Day through its ‘Fans for Diversity’ campaign, a partnership launched with the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF), which helped host a match between disabled fans on the Dripping Pan pitch prior to the first-team fixture.
The campaign funded a squad from Barnet Mencap, who represented Wingate and Finchley, to travel to Lewes with both teams donning ‘Fans for Diversity’ t-shirts for the match. Sky Sports News HQ profiled the game as part of their day-long coverage at Lewes.
They featured a live interview with Sean Macleod, Mental Wellbeing Manager at Lewes, and Anwar Uddin, the FSF’s Diversity and Campaigns Manager, as they both discussed the important role football has in providing opportunities for people of all backgrounds.
Both sides played out a thrilling end-to-end game as they shared the spoils drawing 5-5. The teams were also supported by their first-team counterparts on the sidelines before they took to the field for their Ryman Premier Division contest.
The home side came out on top as they beat Wingate 3-0 to claim three valuable points. At half-time the disability players were welcomed back on to the pitch for a penalty shoot-out where they were cheered on and encouraged by a welcoming crowd of 683 who witnessed the game.
Sean spoke of the importance of raising awareness of disability football during the ‘Season of Action’. He said: “There are still a lot of stigmas around disability and mental health and basically doing events like this can really does benefit the community.
“It makes people realise that these stigmas are not really valid and it’s showing that everyone can play football and everyone can take part and be a part of a healthy society. Kick It Out plays a vital role in this because other organisations are not as on-board with promoting disability football. It is days like today that make people aware that football should be available for all.”
Sarah Akokhia, Project Worker at Barnet Mencap, said that the day meant so much to the disability players of Wingate and Finchley. She commented: “It means everything for these players to be a part of this day. We train at Wingate and Finchley once a month and we have taken part in small tournaments previously.
“The team love football and a lot of them go to watch the first team quite regularly at home matches which is brilliant because we trying to encourage the people we work with to be as independent as possible. To see the players out on a professional-standard pitch, you could tell it meant the world to them.”
Anwar spoke afterwards of the successful day for his campaign and the organisation at Lewes. He said: “It’s been a fantastic day at Lewes. They have been brilliant in supporting Kick It Out and the ‘Fans for Diversity’ campaign during this ‘Season of Action’ match.
“Part of my role for the campaign is to raise awareness for different members of the community to attend and participate in football up and down the country. It was great to see the enjoyment on the faces of the disability player and the fact they got to play at a stadium and be part of a competitive matchday was a pleasure to see.”