Sunderland’s deaf footballers net national title

CHAMPIONS: Sunderland Deaf AFC celebrate their championship win.
CHAMPIONS: Sunderland Deaf AFC celebrate their championship win.
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WEARSIDE’S deaf footballers have shown their professional counterparts how it’s done after they netted a national title.

Sunderland Deaf AFC travelled to Nottingham to secure the English Deaf Football League Championship, which they won 2-1 after beating St John’s in Nottingham.

The players are very special to me. Because of their deafness, it doesn’t stop them from playing the game at the highest level.

Anthony Smare, of Sunderland Deaf AFC

Goals from Alex Brown and Robert Keegan secured the victory, sealing a first-ever championship win for the side.

And the side, affiliated to SAFC’s charitable arm the Foundation of Light, are in the hunt for glory yet again, as they bid to win the Plate Final against Barnet Deaf FC in Basingstoke on May 10.

Speaking about the league title success, the team’s coach, Anthony Smare, said: “The players are very special to me.

“Because of their deafness, it doesn’t stop them from playing the game at the highest level.”

Anthony also gave thanks to those who helped him and others to set up the club.

“We started from nothing and with SAFC and the Foundation of Light’s support, our players have the passion, pride and belief to take the club to even more success,” he added.

“Without their support, we wouldn’t have lifted the England Deaf Football League Championship trophy.”

The team were established in 2013 by Anthony and Lee Hoggeth, after successfully pursuing a relationship with the Foundation of Light charity with the help of Kevin Darke.

Both Anthony and Lee are experienced deaf footballers who were coming to the end of their careers and wanted to continue that legacy with the backing of the Foundation of Light and by extension, the ability to use Sunderland AFC’s name and branding.

The team won the England Deaf Football Northern League in early April, qualifying to face the Southern League champions, having won the northern division with 19 points – four clear of second placed Birmingham.

The team, who play their home games at the Riverside Sports Complex, in Chester-le-Street, are also keen to find new players. For more information log on to their website at www.sdafc.co.uk.