With the World Cup kicking off in Russia, a community football team for adults with additional needs is celebrating after reaching the heady heights of the final of a countywide tournament for the very first time.
And while they weren’t lucky enough to raise the winner’s trophy, The Oak Community Project’s football team certainly hasn’t thrown in the towel for next season.
The Rustington-based project has had a football team for the last five years, which competes twice a year in a tournament organised by Albion in the Community – the official charity of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club.
The tournament is organised especially for adults with learning disabilities in Sussex.
Chris Hughes, The Oak Community Project’s Community Connector, said “The people who play in the team look forward to these tournaments throughout the year and it presents a wonderful opportunity for them to play against other services.
“Over the past four years the Oak Community Project has attracted many school leavers to the service which has reduced the average age considerably, and has improved the fortunes of the football team!
“We got to the semi-finals six months ago, for the first time. This time around we got all the way to the final, and although we lost our first match we didn’t give up, and we bounced back with five victories that got us to the semi-finals, where we had a very close match but scraped through 3-2.”
The team, which is sponsored by Fentons Business Solutions Rustington, was fairly exhausted by this point, and had to request extra time out before starting the final.
Chris added: “We started the final well and went into the lead, causing great celebration among the team, but tiredness told in the end and we lost 2-1 to a more experienced team from Burgess Hill.
“However, we accepted our consolation medals with pride, knowing that we had put our all into every game, supporting each other, and graciously conceding defeat, and the feeling was that we will win it next time!
“We all agreed that it was the competing fairly that meant most, not the winning.”
The County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Health, Amanda Jupp, said: “I was delighted to hear just how well the team had done in this year’s tournament. Congratulations must go to them for all of their hard work and effort in getting so far in this very popular tournament.”