Today is World Down Syndrome Day and Albion in the Community is showing its support for the global awareness campaign by highlighting the success of some of the people who attend its fortnightly football sessions for people with Down’s syndrome.
AITC launched the session back in 2011, before moving it to the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre in Lancing in 2016. It is held on alternate Sundays and is attended by upwards of 20 players.
The session featured on the BBC’s Match of the Day programme last season and many of the players who attend have also had the chance to represent AITC in matches against other clubs, with games previously taking place at the American Express Community Stadium, the Albion’s training ground, Charlton Athletic and Arsenal.
One such player is Archie Little, whose dad, Adam, was full of praise for the impact joining the session with AITC has had on his 15-year-old son.
“It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done,” he said. “Archie really enjoys the sessions and they’re a highlight of the week, he loves it.
“We’ve been to watch him play against teams like Arsenal and Charlton. He’s a big Brighton & Hove Albion fan so when he’s able to put the kit on himself and play under the name of the charity he gets really excited.
“When he first joined the sessions Archie would very much play by himself and wouldn’t really interact too much.
"But when they played against Arsenal recently he got straight in there and was sliding about and passing to teammates; he’s loving it and that was probably the best I’ve seen him play.
“That all comes through the training he does with the charity. The coaches are fantastic; they make sure everyone’s joining in and I can’t speak highly enough of AITC.”
Izzy Marr is another regular attendee, having started at the session back in 2011. The 17-year-old was recently nominated for the 2018/19 Albion in the Community Award.
Her dad, Charlie Marr, was keen to highlight the way AITC has helped his daughter both on and off the pitch.
He said, “Izzy loves her football with AITC. She looks forward to the sessions and it is the highlight of her weekend.
“She approaches each session with delight and always plays with great enthusiasm and a smile on her face.
“She loves Brighton & Hove Albion. Attending the sessions has given her a great feeling of belonging and has been a real confidence-booster. She proudly shows off her Brighton kit to all and sundry.
“She is a fine example of what the really good, positive and friendly coaching at AITC can give to youngsters.”
AITC is holding a free football day for players with Down’s syndrome, which will take place at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre on 18 April between 10.30am and 2.30pm.
For more information on this event, or the charity’s fortnightly session, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.