After the success of last year’s ‘Unified Sports’ football project, we were delighted to be asked to participate again this year. The aim of the project is to encourage young people of differing abilities to play football together, promoting respect and cooperation as well as a healthy and active lifestyle.
To kick off the project, which coincided with the beginning of Special Olympics European Football Week, our cohort of students attended a coaching session at Tranmere Rovers led by professional coaches. The session was fantastic and the students really enjoyed learning new skills and helping each other. After a short break to go on the Prenton Park pitch, the students came back in to finish by playing a match. Kyle Sayle-Hughes, in particular, was outstanding, scoring a hat-trick.
The following week Tranmere Rovers hosted a football festival under the ‘Unified’ banner. After a short introduction and clarification of the rules, we were underway. Ridgeway were placed in Group A. Our first game was against Clairemount: Harley Cringle and Kyle Sayle-Hughes grabbed a goal each to hand Ridgeway a 2-0 win.
Next up Alex Roberts scored the only goal of the game to seal all three points against a talented Kingsway team. In the reverse fixture against Clairemount, Stephen Ward produced a string of saves early on before Molly Davin showed her quality with two goals. Strikes from Harley Cringle and Alex Roberts gave Ridgeway an emphatic 4-1 win.
Despite some heroic efforts from Billy Firth in goal, the team fell to a 1-0 defeat in the final group game against Kingsway. However Ridgeway still progressed through as group winners.
The semi-final draw pitted us against South Wirral. A close encounter was eventually settled by Alex Roberts, with Matthew Sutton, Amy Gardiner-Berry and Kiki Galer keeping things tight at the back.
Ridgeway had made the final, playing an older, more physical Bebington side. The team put in a great performance, with Molly Davin again netting two goals. Unfortunately this was not enough to snatch the win: a late goal secured a 4-2 victory for the opposition.
Mr Beattie, who organised Ridgeway’s participation in the Unified Sports project, said afterwards: “This is a fantastic, really worthwhile project to be involved in. The students really enjoyed it and got a huge amount out of the experience. To get through to the final, only narrowly missing out on victory, was a great achievement. Well done to everyone involved.”