A Football is proving to be the key to a fulfilling life for a group of South London men with learning difficulties and other complex needs.
The Regard Group, which helps people with learning difficulties, mental health needs or acquired brain injury has formed Real Regard – a football team that has men from two different services training and playing together each week.
The men, whose ages range from 24 to 64, compete in the South London Special League, which provides opportunities through sport for young people with disabilities to improve their lives, increase fitness and raise their self-esteem.
The Real Regard squad sees men from a residential care home in Vancouver Road, Catford, joining forces with men with acquired brain injury from a supported living service at Wren Park, Whyteleafe, Surrey to form the team.
Head coach is Olakunle Akinbani, a support worker at Vancouver Road. Last year the team finished second in the B League and they are currently in training for the new season.
Jan Cartmell, Regard Regional Director for London said: “Supporting people with learning difficulties and acquired brain injury is not just about providing a nice place for them to live. We want to help all those who use the Regard services to reach their full potential.
“Real Regard is a unique team in that it brings together men from different parts of our service. Those with acquired brain injury are re-learning skills and playing football can be fantastically beneficial. Friendships that will last a lifetime are also being made.”
Among the players is Reuben Atkinson, who was injured in a car accident at the age of 13 and spent time in a coma and a wheelchair before gaining mobility through physiotherapy.
Now he takes a full part in weekly training sessions and is one of the star players at the fortnightly matches played at the London Marathon Playing Fields at Shooters Hill.
The team have ambitions to play in Division A next season and are training hard in the hope of winning the South London Special League Cup.