SUNDERLAND Deaf Football Club have reached the England Deaf Football League cup final in their first season.
The team, which is affiliated to the SAFC Foundation of Light, won the England Deaf Football North League, beating the likes of Birmingham, Black Country and Everton.
The Black Cats will be playing the winners of the South League, St John’s Arsenal, in the final at Kinton Fields, Nottingham, next Saturday.
Sunderland, who draw players from all over the region, were only formed last summer by manager, and ex-deaf footballer, Anthony Smare and former Great Britain international Lee Hoggeth.
The success follows on from the Under-18s triumph at the National Deaf Children Society’s National Deaf Youth Tournament in March, where the team lifted the trophy after beating teams from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Smare is delighted with the senior team’s progress to the final next week, saying it highlights a commitment to disability football – helping deaf footballers to develop their game in a safe environment and enjoy the sport.
“We’re already deep in preparations for the final,” he said.
“St John’s Arsenal are a very strong team with a long history – they’ve won the Deaf Champions League which highlights their status as one of the bigger clubs in deaf football.
“We might be a young team, with an average age of 22, but this is a fantastic opportunity to get silverware and it’ll be a great moment for the lads.
“We’re laying the foundations for the future of deaf football in the North East with the support of the Foundation of Light, and we’re always on the lookout for young deaf footballers, as well as coaches and sponsors to help the club in the years to come.
“Unfortunately, with many deaf children entering mainstream schools instead of specialised deaf schools, it’s becoming more difficult to bring young players into the set-up, but this is a fantastic opportunity for our players to hopefully push on and represent the England and Great Britain deaf teams at international level in the years to come.
“We would also like to thank everyone, including the Sunderland AFC Foundation of Light for their support.”
The club is on the lookout for more deaf footballers, aged five upwards, and coaches from the region for the 2014/15 season, as well as sponsorship.
Anyone interested can contact Sunderland Deaf AFC Secretary Callum Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.