Damien has been coming along to our PAN Football sessions at Shrewsbury Sports Village since it started 12 months ago, where eight players arrived for the first session. One year on under the guidance of Health and Inclusion Officer Amy Edwards, the team have been going on from strength to strength – and now have a squad travelling across the country to compete in tournaments whilst representing Shrewsbury Town. The PAN team has been a massive boost for the likes of Damien, who, before joining up with Shrewsbury Town in the Community, struggled to find a place in the sport he loves.
“To be honest I didn’t play much football, I felt like I was pushed out a lot,” he said. “Every time I tried to fit in with the teams they never chose me. It was one of my dreams to become a team member, be part of a team, and now that’s what I’ve achieved. It means a lot to do this, and recently they chose me as captain. Just to be able to play football means a lot.”
Realising his dream of playing football may be one thing, but Damien feels being involved with Shrewsbury Town in the Community has helped him to develop off the pitch as well as on it.
“I suggest to anyone who wants to come and join us, it’s fantastic, it’s fun and it’s really helped me. Socially, getting to know other people with learning difficulties, and just being part of a team makes me feel glad to be a part of this. They’re all really nice. They’re a lively bunch of lads, and girl! Sometimes I feel like they’re my family, a football family, and it’s really nice to have that. We have a laugh, talk before the game and play together.”
One of the many friends Damien has made is coach Amy, and says he has a lot to thank her for. “She’s a fantastic coach, without her I don’t think I could be playing football,” he said.
“She’s helped people to understand that we’re all different in this squad, we’ve got our own disabilities and learning difficulties and I think what Amy has done is create awareness for people who have those issues in life and really wants to build up their game. Not just physically, but mentally as well, and football really does help you concentrate on everyday life. When you lose your temper, it’s easier to stay calm kicking a ball about. But now I hope we can play more football and progress together.”