SJFA U13 v London FA Cerebral Palsy

More than just a game of football

Imran Chandoo
Ali Datoo
Ali-Abbas Dossa
Muhammad Gulamhussein
Irfaan Kanji
Jawad Khatau
Kumail Merali
Shahidali Suteria
Zaamin Valjjy

The sun was out and it was double digit weather for the first time in February as the coach arrived at Woodhouse College in Finchley. As he took off his additional layers to accommodate the rise in temperature, he recalled it was not his first time in Finchley. His lovely wife literally dragged him there a few years to purchase some curtains. This time the coach was not expecting to see some blinds or box pleats but rather blinding goals and box to box movement from his midfielders.

The coach for the under 13’s did not need much persuasion to agree to a friendly with the London FA Cerebral Palsy and London FA Partially Sighted/Deaf Regional Talent Centres. This was simply more than just a game of football. Unity and respect are the pillars of the SJFA. Agreeing to this friendly was an opportunity for two different communities to unite over the beautiful game, and for the SJFA boys and coaches to respect the great work that the FA and their coaches do to develop boys with certain disabilities to become better footballers.

The centres are the entry point to the England Disability Talent Pathway. Players with the following impairment groups are eligible to attend the centre:

– Amputee
– Blind
– Cerebral Palsy
– Deaf (and Hearing Impairment)
– Learning Disability
– Partially Sighted

The two coaches over a couple of discussions agreed on the following formats:

Cerebral Palsy: (7v7 game with 2 x 20 mins halves played on the 3G pitch outdoors)
Partially Sighted/Deaf: (5v5 Futsal game with 2 x 20 mins halves played in the Sports Hall)

The coach was mindful this was a first for the SJFA and he did some background reading to prepare for the afternoon of football.

Cerebral palsy is the general term for a number of neurological conditions that affect movement and co-ordination. Neurological conditions are caused by problems in the brain and nervous system. The main symptoms are:

  • muscle stiffness or floppiness (hypotonia)
  • muscle weakness
  • random and uncontrolled body movements
  • balance and co-ordination problems

These symptoms can affect different areas of the body and vary in severity from person to person. Some people only have minor problems, whereas others are severely disabled.

Before kick off the opposition briefed the SJFA coach and the boys on a couple of differences in the format of football they were going to play. For example no off-sides would be observed (always a bonus for young footballers) and also to understand that due to the disability of the opposition they were allowed to roll out the boys rather throw the ball when they have a throw in. One instruction was very clear; play your normal game.

Both sets of players lined up to shake hands before the kick off. The age band of the opposition ranged from 12 to 15 and it really was wonderful to see how our boys accommodated beautifully to play a game of football that was new to them. Over the 15 mins each half both teams were competitive and played some really great football. What was pleasing over the 9-1 win for the SJFA was the spirt and respect the boys showed for each other. The goal scorers for the SJFA were:

Zaamin Valjy x 5
Ali Datoo
Muhammed Gulamhussin
Imran Chandoo
Shahidali Suteria

The single goal scored by the opposition was the cream of the 10 goals scored. A sloppy pass led to the opposition left winger taking the ball forward and from approx. 30 yards out, and from an acute angle he slotted a sublime left foot shot into the goal. Take a bow son. A great goal!

After the match both sets of players shook hands and took a team photo together. The SJFA boys then had 20 mins to prepare for the indoor Futsal game with the partially sighted and deaf team. During the time they freshened up and performed their obligatory prayers.

As they entered the gym they noticed that the new opposition were much bigger and older (15 and 16 year olds) than them and the ball they were going to play with did not bounce! Once again a coach had to brief some the SJFA boys on the Futsal rules as some of the boys had never played Futsal.

Over the last couple of months the coach had witnessed many friendlies but this match was without doubt the most enjoyable. As the SJFA boys tried to adjust to a format of football they had not played before and playing with boys who were physically stronger than them they were quickly 2 nil down. However, as the boys started to move the ball around and adapt to the passing and fast moving format and they levelled the match 2-2 with a lovely second goal. Jawad Khatau putting through a sublime pass to Zaamin Valjy who then had the audacity to chip a goal keeper at close range.

The football was end to end from both sides and really was exciting. The opposition having more of the ball and creating the better chances eventually ran away with the game with a 7-3 win. The final score line was not a true reflection of how well our boys battled and once again Ali-Abbas Dossa showed how brave he is between the posts.

The SJFA goal scorers were:-
Zaamin Valjy x 2
Kumail Merali

After the match the opposition coach came over to our boys to compliment how they adopted to Futsal and how he enjoyable the match. He also thanked the boys for giving his boys the opportunity to play friendlies and how well he was impressed with their attitude on and off the pitch.

It was clear from both coaches that the two fixtures were a success. Both coaches agreed to arrange further fixtures across the different age groups and continue the partnership.

As the coach got back into his car to drive to the training ground, he popped into the curtain shop to get a couple of swatches for his wife. He was conscious he had been out since 9am and would not be back home until 7pm all for the love of the beautiful game!

Mohamed Valjy
Manager, Tier 5 (U13/14)