By Matthew Brady
Everton Football Club recently celebrated International Day of Persons with Disabilities ahead of their high-profile Premier League match against Manchester United.
Members of The Toffees’ Disabled Supporters Association as well as Paralympic bronze medallist and ardent Evertonian Jamie Burdekin met fans before the game.
Other events included club coaches leading various sessions based around a range of sports such as blind football and Boccia. Disabled Everton and Manchester United supporters also formed a guard of honour as the players took to the field in a display of solidarity.
The celebration is the latest in a long line of projects from the Merseyside club.
Tim Lloyd, 25, who has cerebral palsy, captains one of Everton’s disability football teams, and has found his long-time involvement with the club to be life-changing.
He said: “Everton have helped me massively in terms of my disability. I started as a shy 14-year-old and thanks to the coaches, as well as my teammates, my confidence sky-rocketed.”
Lloyd believes the club has a wider role in the community that goes far beyond their own supporters and encompasses the city of Liverpool.
He said: “Everton have a big role in the community. They are more than just a football club, they want to help everyone in this city, whoever they are. They are the People’s Club.”
John Jones, 58, a father to two sons who play for Everton’s disability football team, said his sons had also gained confidence from the programme.
He said: “Everton have helped my two sons with their ability to enjoy football.
“From the sessions they give in schools, introducing people to sport or even just providing transport for disabled people, I’ve been with Everton for over ten years now and my lads love it.”