A deaf football team gave their manager the perfect send-off as they lifted a national championship.
Sunderland Deaf AFC beat Reading 3-0 in Nottingham to win the England Deaf Football League Cup, adding to the England Deaf Football League trophy they had already secured.
It was the final game in charge for Anthony Smare, who set up the club three years ago and is leaving to help form a national league.
The club has provided an outlet for many deaf people in the city who have found it difficult to secure jobs because of their disability.
To mark their achievement, the team has been invited to Sunderland AFC’s Stadium of Light, to walk around the pitch ahead of the club’s game with Chelsea a week on Saturday.
For Mr Smare, winning the cup was the culmination of three years of hard work, which started when the self-employed gas fitter set the club up with £1,500 of funding three years ago. The club also won the competition last season.
It is so rewarding to win this trophy again after winning it last season to end three years as manager on a highAnthony Smare
He said: “Winning the cup means a lot to me, because it shows how much work I’ve put into the club.
“It is so rewarding to win this trophy again after winning it last season, to end three years as manager on a high.
“I’ve decided to step down as I am involved in setting up the National Deaf Football League, which will start next season.
“I want to see more deaf players in professional football, so I’m dedicating my time to this project. I will be back one day, though, as I enjoy being at the club and I am considering a chairperson role at the club.”
The club was set up with funding from the Football Foundation, and help from the Foundation of Light.
Mr Smare runs the business Northstar Plumbing and Heating, and has paid tribute to his players.
He added: “It is difficult, as most of players are unemployed and find it difficult to get jobs due to their deafness. This does impact what we do, as it becomes costly to keep travelling all over the country to play in games.
“This title win is a massive boost and hopefully we will get recognised by potential sponsors to, help us further establish ourselves as a force next season.”
The club’s annual budget is about £3,000, with most coming directly from the players and staff. As well as sponsors, they are looking for new players with at least a moderate loss of hearing.
Anyone interested can email the club at firstname.lastname@example.org.