FA Disability Cup Finals Weekend
The FA Disability Cup Finals weekend was held at St George’s Park, the home of English Football, on 24th-25th June and was once again supported by RAF Shawbury permanent staff and DCASO students. The event is the culmination of a season’s hard work for players and coaches from six different disciplines across the disability spectrum – in layman’s terms it is their FA Cup Final. The disciplines were partially sighted, amputee, blind, powerchair, CP and deaf, all coming with their own unique challenges clearly.
In what has become a permanent fixture on the calendar of RAF Shawbury, personnel ably supported the FA’s showcase event for Disability Football over two days. This is partly due to the strong links RAF Shawbury has with the FA, forged through Wg Cdr Neil Hope MBE and partly down to the fact that the FA and guests to the event absolutely love having the RAF (&MPGS) supporting the event. In the organisers words, “it brings some grandeur to the event, looks amazing and everyone does an absolutely brilliant job”.
The volunteers this year included students from various DCASO courses, DCASO trainers, the MPGS and 19Sqn RAF Boulmer. As ever the unsociable start was a must but as soon as the volunteers saw the venue and got a feel for the event the 0500 departure was a mere afterthought. The skills, courage and dedication of the players remain absolutely mind-blowing to all who witness the games with several watching on in disbelief at just how good those competing were.
Roles completed by Shawbury personnel included VIP and guest liaison, medal and trophy bearers, ball retrievers and an obligatory work party for setting up the presentation displays. They also helped to run a new addition the weekend brought in this year, an experience area. This allowed guests to try out various disciplines of disability football and proved extremely popular.
In an extremely poignant and tear-jerking gesture the FA laid a wreath and held a minute’s applause to commemorate Charlotte Hope, the daughter of Neil and Helen Hope, who was tragically killed in April of last year. She was a member of the Shropshire FA Youth Council, a key part of the Taking Football to Africa and Beyond Appeal and a truly selfless individual who is missed by all who knew her.
This was also Neil’s final event as a member of the RAF FA Council and member of the FA, though through the links he has forged RAF Shawbury will continue to be involved with Disability Football. We have already been asked, and agreed, to support the event next year and are already planning an event to be held at RAF Shawbury so all on station can experience the skills and challenges involved in playing different disciplines of Disability Football.