Rapid rise for wheelchair football club

The founder of a new wheelchair football club in Ipswich has been delighted by the rapid growth in membership at the club just weeks after its creation.

By Stuart Watson

The founder of a new wheelchair football club in Ipswich has been delighted by the rapid growth in membership at the club just weeks after its creation.

Earlier this year wheelchair bound Claire O'Brien-Ellington decided that she would like to play the game that she loved and set-up a taster day at Northgate Sports Centre to gage the interest of the Suffolk community.

Ipswich Town season ticket holder O'Brien-Ellington said: “We had eight people turn up on the day which was far more than we had anticipated.

“Several people where then coming up to me in town or at football after the event and asking when the next session was.

“I started doing some research and realised that the Wheelchair FA was based in Nottinghamshire and that the nearest wheelchair football club to here was in the 'yellow and green area'.

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“I thought that's not fair, what about all the people in Suffolk and Essex, so I got in touch with Team Ipswich, the Suffolk FA, the Wheelchair FA and disability charity Optua and they started helping me set up a club.”

Charioteers Wheelchair FC soon emerged, the first training session for which took place at Copleston Sports Centre last October. The third of their monthly training sessions last month was then advertised as an open session, at which 14 players turned up.

O'Brien-Ellington said: “Anyone can play, I've seen dwarves, people with cerebral palsy and those with brain damage all play wheelchair football.

“When I tell other people in wheelchairs that I play football and I'm a striker they are amazed. Most of them have never even heard of wheelchair football, so they can't believe it when I tell them there are leagues and even a World Cup.

“We've got one young lad who is unable to talk very much but when he scored a goal on his first session he was shouting and nearly jumping out his chair, his mother was in tears.

“Joining this club allows people in wheelchairs to achieve something in their lives and feel a sense of belonging.

“What we say is that if you have got a wheelchair and want to play football then come along, your age, sex or religion doesn't matter.

“The first session is free and if you want to come back it's only £2 a time. After five or six sessions you then can decide if you want to register with the club.

“I have been sent DVDs of the last World Cup in Japan where Britain finished second. At the top level it's fast, furious and aggressive. The speeds they go at is mental.

“Eventually we would like to enter a league, but we would require sponsorship in order to travel all over the country.”

The next training session for Charioteers Wheelchair FC is on January 12 between 10-11am at Copleston Sports Centre. For information on the club please contact Claire O'Brien-Ellington on: 07786 062656 or Optua's Leisure Service on: 01473 836770.

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