In just over a couple of days’ time, the Chair of the Sussex Disability Football League, Steve Atkins, will embark on a mammoth challenge, as he attempts to walk over 100 miles in three days.
The aim of the walk is simple; raise the £12,000 needed to run the Sussex Disability Football League (SDFL) next season.
We caught up with Steve to first, find out how the last few months of training have been?
“Well, it’s been a long few months, I can you that much!” said Steve.
“From when we announced the walk back in February to now it feels like a long stretch, but the training has been going well and the steps count has been going up.
“So, now it’s nearly here I’m really looking forward to it and just can’t wait to get going!”
Starting at Worthing Town Football Club, Steve’s walk will then take him past a number of our great clubs here in Sussex, with the route eventually culminating in him finishing at our Headquarters in Culver Road, Lancing, where the SDFL holds its fixtures.
Whilst the task ahead of Steve is no mean feat, the passion he has for the cause is what will be driving him over those hours on the road.
“The SDFL is one that’s run in such a unique way, in the sense that everyone comes together at one venue, and because of that costs come into play, and the cost of putting it on to a high standard and making it a fun and safe environment.
“So, if through doing the walk we can raise a season’s worth of funding that would really take the pressure off, and then our attention could go on growing the league and getting as much pan disability football played as possible.”
Indeed, whilst football as a whole has bounced back from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that the impact is still being felt in disability football, as it continues to recover.
However, Steve is convinced that in growing the SDFL once again, that growth isn’t far away.
“The way I see it, the league is like the champion of disability football in the county,” he said, “the teams do an amazing job, but the league is where they all come together.
“It gives everyone involved, but especially the players, something to look forward to as they are all able to come together.
“For many of the players, the pandemic did a lot to break their routines, because for some of them the hardest part was getting out of the house and getting down to the ground.
“But in terms of helping the players get that confidence back, I think we’re on the right track now, but the more people that are aware of the good the league does, the stronger it will be.”
How important a role the SDFL plays in the lives of the people involved is hard to quantify, but it’s something Steve sees every day he’s there.
“I’d encourage anyone who’s not come down, to come and watch because it’s a remarkable thing, just seeing the joy it brings to players,” said Steve.
“Some weeks we’ll just run some silly little competitions, best shot, best header, etc. and the prize might just be a small cup, but the happiness on people’s faces for just that small token is remarkable, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Of course, with the walk now just over the horizon, Steve’s thoughts naturally turn to those three days, but thankfully he won’t be alone as he makes the trek.
“I’ve got a secret weapon for the walk, and his name is Tom Gallagher,” said Steve, “he’ll be walking with me and looking after the socials, though I think the idea of spending that much time with me is giving him second thoughts now!
“But regarding people coming along for the walk, we’ve posted the route on our website, and lots of people have promised they’ll join for a few miles.
“Indeed, if everyone who’s promised to come along does so, I’m confident I’ll have about 1,000 people joining at some point!”
Motivation for Steve to complete the walk is also coming from thoughts of our late chairman, Mathew Major, a passionate supporter of disability football, who passed away in April.
Now though, the priority for Steve, and the rest of his team, is to ensure they raise as much money as possible, so if you’re still in two minds about donating, Steve has this message…
“It’s simple, by donating to keep this league going, you are enhancing people’s lives.
“Football is a superpower, and it’s so important that the league can continue to welcome new players, and give people the opportunity to play, and participate in the best game ever invented!”
You can support Steve by donating via his Just Giving page:
For further information on disability football in Sussex please contact:
T: 01903 766855