A sporting initiative for children with special needs across the district is marking its 25th year thanks to local Rotarians.
Several special needs schools across Warwickshire and the West Midlands have signed up for the Festival of Football, which will take over four pitches at Villa Park’s training academy next month.
The community event is once again being organised by Wylde Green Rotary Club with the support of teachers, helpers and Aston Villa FC backroom staff.
Teams of between five and eight players will compete in friendly matches across the day, on November 8th with medals and trophies up for grabs.
Other schools so far signed up are: Oak Wood School, Nuneaton; Baginton Fields in Coventry; The Brier School Kingswinford; Langley School Solihull; Merstone School, Solihull; Pens Meadow, Stourbridge and Woodlands School, Coleshill.
Nick Thurston, of Wylde Green Rotary, said: “The event is always popular with the children travelling to Villa Park to play football. For Rotary and Rotarians it gives us a lot of pleasure to see how much enjoyment the players get from their day out.”
He added: “We have managed to keep the event going every year since we took it on including through the Covid pandemic.
“Schools look forward to this every year and we as a Club are very proud and privileged to run the event on behalf of the Rotary District. Working with Special Needs schoolchildren and seeing their enjoyment in playing football is one of the highlights of our Rotary year.
“Due to the planned demolition of the AV Academy this will probably be the last year the event is held at Aston Villa, but we are exploring other options for next year.”
Rotarian Bill Elliott who has been involved with the Special Needs Football for more than 20 years said: “Sutton Rotarian David Phillips who started this project would be proud to see that it is still going strong under the ethos of there are no winners or losers as everyone gets a medal. Past District Governor John Quinton was also very supportive of this event to ensure that it continued.
“Having been involved with children with Special Needs it gives me great pleasure to see them enjoying themselves and being given this opportunity to have this experience.”
Oscott Tesco store is once again supplying refreshments on the day.