Sunderland Stadium of Light welcomes some special players

Sunderland DS Devils from the SAFC Foundation coaching sessions having a kick about on the pitch at half time during the SAFC V Aston Villa match.
Sunderland DS Devils from the SAFC Foundation coaching sessions having a kick about on the pitch at half time during the SAFC V Aston Villa match.
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A UNIQUE football team took to the pitch in front of thousands of Black Cats fans to show off their skills.

The DS Devils, a team made up of children with Down’s Syndrome, entertained the crowd during half-time at SAFC’s clash with Aston Villa on Saturday.

Sunderland DS Devils from the SAFC Foundation coaching sessions having a kick about on the pitch at half time during the SAFC V Aston Villa match.

Sunderland DS Devils from the SAFC Foundation coaching sessions having a kick about on the pitch at half time during the SAFC V Aston Villa match.

The team was given their name by SAFC striker Fraizer Campbell.

The newly-formed team is made up of participants from SAFC Foundation’s Down’s Syndrome coaching sessions.

Fraizer, who attended one of the specialist coaching sessions last week, chose the name, Sunderland DS Devils, from a shortlist compiled by players in the team.

The winning suggestion came from six-year-old Thomas Taylor from Ryhope.

Speaking about the sessions, Kevin Darke, Making Moves co-ordinator for SAFC Foundation, said: “SAFC Foundation aims to offer everyone an opportunity to take part in programmes that can improve their lives, regardless of age or ability.

“The formation of the Sunderland DS Devils will give these youngsters the chance to take part in tournaments and competitions across the country, representing Sunderland and the region.

“The impact that something like this will have on their motivation and confidence is huge and getting the opportunity to play on the pitch at the Stadium of Light at half-time is just the start of that.”

SAFC Foundation’s specialist coaching sessions for young people and adults with Down’s Syndrome aged five to 25-years-old, run every Saturday at Crowtree Leisure Centre from 11.30am-12.30pm.

Sessions develop youngsters’ footballing skills and abilities with a view to forming teams which will compete in regional and national competitions. The Sunderland DS Devils are the first team from the ground-breaking programme, which is supported by Down’s Syndrome Association as part of their DS Active project.

SAFC Foundation is the pilot club in the North East for the sessions which were launched in June of this year.

* Parents wishing to find out more about the sessions should contact Phil King on 551 5164 or email philip.king@safc.com

Twitter:@sunechokaty