MEMBERS of Chester Deaf Football Club celebrated their 70th Anniversary with a party.
Boys and girls from the youth team were joined by friends and family to celebrate the special occasion at the Chester Deaf Centre on South View Road.
Former players were also invited and got the chance to talk about their playing days.
Colin Beadles, who started playing for the club in 1988, said: “I have always been involved with the Chester Deaf League in the North West, Manchester and Lancashire. We played in a hearing league. It was a good challenge for deaf people with hearing people. We got to travel to France, Italy and Belgium. I really enjoyed it for 20 years.”
Youth team coach Mike Ritchie joined the club at 16 and went on to play for Everton Deaf Football Club.
Mike said: “When I left school I was very lucky, a man called Ian Wilkinson who won medals for Great Britain, got me involved. I did a lot of travelling with the team, met lots of deaf people and really enjoyed it, it was fantastic.”
Mike, who is also a British sign language tutor at West Cheshire College admits it can be difficult for deaf children to get involved with sport.
“Most deaf children now are in mainstream schools. I went to deaf school which meant that I knew to go to deaf club and I was involved in the deaf community,” he said.
“A lot of deaf children in mainstream schools will withdraw because communication is just too difficult for them.”
Erica Jones who runs the team added: “We want the kids to come to us to gain confidence and then they can go and join other clubs if they want to.
“We will be working with the Cheshire FA to give them pathways. Eventually there will be opportunities for them to join bigger clubs like Everton, and possibly play for deaf England and Great Britain.
“Mike would love to see the kids we have trained represent Great Britain at the Deaflympics. We have big dreams.”
Coaching alongside Mike is Paul Southall who plays disability sports and got involved to encourage more activities for deaf children.
Paul’s son Josh, who is hearing has also joined the team.
Josh, who is 13 and a Liverpool fan, said: “I think it’s great because it gives people that don’t have confidence and don’t play football the chance to start playing.”
Josh’s teammate Ethan Cooper, eight, from Ellesmere Port, is a great example of why Chester Deaf Football Club helps build confidence.
Ethan’s mother Jacqui said: “It’s been a struggle to get him into team sports. His confidence levels were really low. He had never tried football in his life.
“It took him a little while to get into it but now only a couple of months later he can’t wait to get to training each week. It’s been a real life changer for him. His confidence levels have gone right up. He loves it.”
The team were due to have training before the party on Saturday but snowy weather meant it had to be cancelled. Instead, the team played indoor games and celebrated with a buffet and music.
The club are still looking for boys and girls aged between eight and 16 to come and play, with a view to entering a team of one age group into a league for the 18/19 season.
Mike and Paul are running training sessions every Saturday from 10am-11am at Goals Chester on the Sealand Industrial Estate.
l For more information or to enquire about joining the team email Erica Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org