Carlisle United launch official Powerchair team
The Carlisle United Powerchair Football team was officially launched at a special event in Penrith on Monday and club staff, along with first team players Derek Asamoah and Bastien hery, were delighted to be able to attend to see the culmination of what has been 18 months of extremely hard work.
Director of external affairs John Nixon said: “The affiliation came about when I spoke to Ray McBride [secretary of the Wheelchair Club] at the Rotary Club after he had done a presentation about what his organisation was trying to achieve.
“The key thing that came across from that presentation was that he was struggling to get the amount of funding he needed for the project. I was able to introduce him to Ruth Jeffcoate [director of the Cumbria Fundraising Consultancy] who had helped at the Cathedral when we needed funds for projects we were doing there.
“I also spoke to the media department at Carlisle United, to let them know what was going on, and it all seemed to come together from there. Ruth managed to get some vital funding, which helped a lot, and our media team took them under their wing and made them feel part of our club. All things told it brought the community just that little bit closer together.”
“The wheelchair club is full of young adults and children who are severely disabled and a project like this gives them real focus,” he added. “It’s fantastic for us as a football club that we can be part of it. One of the best things about it is that you can see the amount of pleasure it gives people, and that’s really important.”
Speaking on behalf of the Wheelchair Club, Ray McBride said: “Thanks to the efforts of John Nixon we’ve got an association with Carlisle United, and we’re very proud of that. They are the only professional football club in Cumbria and we’re really thankful that they’ve allowed us to become their Powerchair Football team.
“It means a lot to all of us that we can provide so many facilities and activities for our disabled young people, but we’re always looking to do more. The help we’ve had to get this far has been overwhelming and we would like to thank everyone who has had a hand in getting this project off the ground and to where it is now.”
United’s Community Sports Trust manager John Halpin said: “It’s actually the first time I’ve seen Powerchair Football first-hand and it’s been good for the Community Sports Trust that we’ve been able to get involved in what is a vitally important programme.
“The partnership came about when John Nixon spoke to us about what the Wheelchair Club was hoping to achieve. As a bit of coincidence a pot of money was made available from the Wembley Fund, specifically aimed at disability football, at the same time as we had that conversation so we got our heads together to make a bid for some of that funding. Hopefully we’ll be successful with that bid.”
“The purchase of just one chair for this sport can be in the region of £5,000 so there’s a lot of expense involved in getting a team off the ground,” he explained. “We want to help because of that and it’s exciting for us to be here. We’ve never done anything like this before so getting to the stage where the team has officially launched has allowed us to gain a clearer picture of what we need to do next. It has also hammered home just how worthwhile all of the efforts have been so far.”
United midfielder Bastien Hery had a personal reason for wanting to be involved in the launch event.
“We all enjoy appearances anyway but this one feels really special for me,” he told us. “I have people in my family who are disabled so it means a lot to be here to help to launch this team.
“Everyone loves sport, and everyone wants to be able to take part in some way, and this project helps those who are in wheelchairs to get involved. I think it’s absolutely fantastic. Another big part of it for me is that I like to meet new people and appearances bring us closer to everyone. I knew when I signed my contract that this was a family club anyway and things like this prove that we all want to be doing as much as we can, as often as we can.”
Striker Derek Asamoah said: “I really enjoyed seeing all the smiling faces. I’m thrilled that I came down and met everybody. I had a go at the game myself and it’s ten times more difficult than it looks.
“I nearly crashed a couple of times so it shows how brave these guys are, because they play the game at a really fast pace. I have a huge amount of respect for them.”
“Seeing this and taking part is something you can take inspiration from,” he agreed. “This is an example of people putting aside whatever difficulties they have in life to do something they enjoy.
“Personally I like to get out to as many appearances as I can. There isn’t one player at the club who would turn the opportunity to represent the club down. That’s credit to the players and staff because it shows a really positive attitude right through the club.”