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  • David Knox | Border Telegraph


GALA Fairydean Rovers joined clubs across the world on Saturday in celebrating the inclusion of disabled people in sport in an UEFA backed initiative – the CAFÉ Week of Action.

Darren Thomson from the club’s disability football squad led out the Gala Fairydean Rovers and East Stirlingshire teams ahead of their Lowland League match.

Other members of the club’s disability and walking football squads were also on hand to offer assistance to spectators as matchday volunteers and stewards.

The Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFÉ) Week of Action offers a unique opportunity for clubs, venues, federations and supporters groups to celebrate the wider inclusion of disabled people and the important role they can play in both football and the wider society. Last season clubs in 25 countries took part in initiatives.

This season’s CAFÉ Week of Action took place between March 2 and 10, with clubs like Celtic inviting disabled supporters to be flag bearers at their game against Aberdeen whilst Rangers welcomed a group of visually impaired supporters to Ibrox Stadium for a ‘Touch Tour.

The CAFÉ website states: "We invite anybody who is passionate about access and inclusion to join us in celebrating Total Football.

"The CAFE Week of Action belongs to you – disabled fans and their groups, football clubs, stadiums, leagues, NGOs and the national associations.

"This is a great opportunity to show the many different roles disabled people can play within the game, and to demonstrate your commitment to a game that is accessible, inclusive and welcoming for all.”

Over the past few seasons Gala Fairydean Rovers have led the way in making football available for everyone in the community.

Secretary Graeme McIver explained: "We have tried to ensure that Gala Fairydean Rovers are a club accessible to all.

"Through our community engagement programme we already have shown that disability is no barrier to participating in football whether as a player, a supporter or matchday volunteer.

"The members of our disability squad and Over 50s walking Football Team are fully integrated into our club.

"We are also trying to improve facilities here at Netherdale to make the 3G Arena a welcoming and accessible venue for supporters with disabilities who attend our games.

"The club are grateful to Bruce Robertson Training, Howden’s Joinery and Zest Blinds for their terrific support for our Disability and Walking Football teams."

Saturday's CAFÉ celebration was an opportunity for Darren to lead out his favourite team.

He said: "The club have been brilliant with me.

"I am very grateful for how they have kept me involved and part of the team.

"As well as leading out the teams today I was invited to open the club’s new disability viewing area.”

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