sport

Brentford legend explains why he wanted to start a Down's Syndrome Football Club

Dan Wood, founder of the World Freestyle Football Federation, has partnered Cockram with Victoria Smith playing a lead role in the work at the club

Allan Cockram

Brentford favourite Allan Cockram admitted setting up a football club for players with Down's Syndrome is something he had always wanted to do for years.

The former Bee has established Brentford Penguins FC which is open to people ages eight to 30 to play football and enjoy themselves while getting some exercise. Dan Wood, founder of the World Freestyle Football Federation, has partnered Cockram with Victoria Smith playing a lead role in the work at the club.

And he revealed that a friendship with someone who have the disability provided that drive and he now has the opportunity to pursue it.

He told GetWestLondon: “It's something that is personal to me from years and years ago. Most people like to give back but it's finding the time.

“I was coaching in the States for six years and when I came back I became head coach of UCL. It was a great experience but with it being part time where we get together four times a week, I wasn't used to that as I was training every day.

“It gave me an opportunity to fit something else in and it came out of a conversation with my girlfriend when she said why don't you start what you always wanted to do and it clicked. The ball started to roll.

“I started to investigate and spoke to DSActive, as part of the Down’s Syndrome Association.

That was my first meeting in Twickenham and then I thought it'd be great to approach Brentford and see where they're at with it. Pete, there, said it was perfect timing and they'd give me full backing.

“Years ago, I had a friend who had a Down's Syndrome child and I was his best mate and he unfortunately past and I always said one day I'd do something like this.

“I've had the training and I can't wait to start and I'm getting butterflies about it all.”

Brentford Penguins FC

Down's syndrome is a genetic condition that typically causes some level of learning disability and certain physical characteristics.

With 30 years of scientific enhancements and knowledge, the life expectancy of those afflicted by it has doubled.

“For example, the life expectancy in the 80s was between 30 and 40 because of many factors, Cockram added.

“Once you learn that you can help in an active way; their life expectancy has doubled just through something as simple as sport.

“Because our knowledge of disabilities have gone up but it's not just that as they can get jobs and contribute more to society.

“I see it as more teaching them than coaching them. This is a combination of your humanity and accelerated learning so it's a big test for me as well as everyone else.”

Finding a venue was always going to be the difficult part of it and the Penguins were fortunate to find a vacancy at Brentside School Sports Hall.

Cockram explained: “Like anything, it's not easy as everyone is looking to go inside. They had a football team cancel on this night.

“I happened to phone up. I'd had two or three places in mind due to accessibility. It's perfect. It's a sports hall so you can condense the size and open it up. There's not much of an echo.

“It's about getting the right environment. I've booked 20 weeks already.”

Allan Cockram

So far, six have signed up, with more likely to turn up on the night and Cockram is looking to develop a five a side team.

He added: “Brentford chose not to do it a few years ago due to QPR and Fulham and because the knowledge has become vast and, as Reading finished theirs. I've got six registered and that's without anybody turning up on the night.

“That being said, if 20 or 30 turned up, it'd be hard to control, especially if you have to worry about whether they can kick a ball or whether any music would be too loud for them.

“Starting small and working on it and get more people to take it up (is the best way).”

The first taster session, for players between the ages of eight and 30, takes place on Thursday October 5 from 6.30-8pm at Brentside School Sports Hall, Greenford Avenue, Hanwell, London, W7 1JJ.

The initial session is free of charge and if anyone is interested in attending, or you want further information, email brentfordpenguinsfc@gmail.com or call 07546 259367.

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