Norwich City Down’s Syndrome team brings smiles to youngsters

Chants from the Carrow Road stands would have you believe 'there's only one Norwich City'.

But now a new Canaries team is looking to take centre stage with their big smiles and appetite for fun.

The Norwich City Down's Syndrome football team had their first training session on Saturday morning with a view to playing nationwide fixtures in the future.

More than 20 youngsters donned the yellow and green jersey for an hour of training at City College Norwich, where they took part in a host of football games to keep healthy and active.

Support worker Paul Ring-Davies, of Long Stratton, bought 26-year-old Martin Hubbard, of Dereham, to the session.

He said: 'I personally think that anything that gives Down's syndrome people something to do is great. He loves Norwich City FC and having a good run around, and playing in a team is just really involving for him.'

Coaches from Norwich City Community Sports Foundation kicked off the session with a passing game called golden nuggets where the youngsters had to try and hit as many yellow cones as possible by using their skills at kicking the ball.

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The second half of the morning was given over to an action packed football match with all 20 young people, aged from five, taking part in the game.

But the biggest smiles were saved for the Community Sports Foundation mascot, Sport-o-saurus <correct>, who delighted the group by giving hugs and posing for pictures.

Laurence York, disability development officer for Community Sports Foundation, said: 'The idea is to have fun and meet some new people in a similar situation. But there are also the health benefits that playing football can give people with Down's syndrome, who can suffer from heart and thyroid problems. To be able to affect 20 kids that might otherwise be sitting at home - I just think that is amazing.'

There are currently eight down's syndrome football teams and plans are in the pipeline for the Norwich City team to play their first match against rivals Ipswich Town.

The DS Active football development officer, Scott Pollington-Woods, whose organisation DSActive funded the team, said: 'The idea of the scheme is not just to get every person with down's syndrome playing football, but to get them playing it in an environment where they feel comfortable.'