How Ammanford AFC Juniors are driving disability football forward in West Wales
The mantra that drives Welsh football forward doesn’t only apply to superstars like Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.
It’s evident in communities across Wales, in those striving to make our beloved game better.
And, when a lack of disability football in West Wales provided a problem, collaboration delivered the answer.
With an ambitious target of 1,500 registered players with a disability in Wales by 2024, the FAW Trust saw West Wales as an obvious area of growth.
So, working with Ammanford AFC Juniors, Carmarthenshire County Council, Swansea City Community Trust and Sport Wales, they set-about creating two thriving clubs, with ambitions to grow.
The first of these was spawned by Carmarthenshire Council, who set-up a series of disability specific turn-up-and-play sessions, from which Rhydaman Rangers was formed.
Then the FAW Trust stepped in to fund regular sessions and visits to Special Educational Need units at primary and secondary schools, to recruit more players.
This helped identify the demand for disability football in the area and gave the fledgeling club an opportunity to grow.
At the next stage of the exciting project, FAW gold accredited club Ammanford AFC Juniors stepped-in to take over the running of the inclusive team, which includes children with a range of disabilities, including Autism, personality disorders and learning disabilities.
They used their vast knowledge of funding sources to secure a Sport Wales Community Chest grant, which pays for facility hire and kit.
With all that in place, the club has now entered the West Wales Pan Disability League and continues to look forward.
Coach Sion Thomas said: “We would love to recruit 20 members and then we can enter teams into the disability leagues at the different category levels. That would be brilliant.
“But this year is about getting established and increasing skills and confidence.
“We have a regular group of boys turning up regularly but we want to see more young people – especially girls - coming along and seeing what we’re all about.
“We are a totally inclusive team and welcome children aged over 11 years of age and of all abilities.”
The delighted coach added: “The team have come a long way since they first started. “Their skills have improved and it’s really good to see how they are gelling as a unit.
“It puts a big smile on my face when I see them bonding so well as a team.”