Basildon Soccability and champions Westcliff United proudly represented Essex as the Semi-Final and Final stages of the FA People’s Cup took place at St George’s Park in Burton-upon-Trent on the weekend of 28th and 29th April.
Both clubs participate in the Essex Soccability League, plus this year they entered the FA People’s Cup. The First Round was held at PlayFootball Southend in February, where the League One section had eight teams competing and the Premiership had six. Basildon (pictured) won the League One division, while Westcliff claimed the Premiership and Under 16s sections.
They then progressed on to the Regional Qualifiers and, after winning their groups, both clubs went through to the Nationals. Basildon narrowly missed out on penalties in the Semi-Finals, while Westcliff United won the Premiership.
Daniel Moores, Founder of Westcliff United, recalled: "Both our teams played against some really good, well-organised academy teams, which was a test for them. While the Adult Team seemed to find it not too challenging, the Under 16s really had a tough experience, especially in the Semi-Finals in London.”
“It was a very moving, emotional day for them. The experience at St George's Park, for both teams, was overwhelming and the Adult Team was tested. Our goalkeeper is so passionate and such a hard worker between the sticks. He built confidence within the squad, and nothing was getting past him.”
“The whole Youth Team squad is incredible, especially when I only added this team into this competition a few days before it started just to make up numbers. They're not used to big venues and tournaments and, with crowds of people watching them and shouting their names, they felt like they were playing for a pro club."
"They got the experience of playing their very first final at England's training complex against great academy teams. This is the biggest trophy the adults have won compared to all the winners’ medals they have collected in the past 18 months. Getting the experience of watching their first FA Cup Final at Wembley really topped it off.”
“With their club name all over Wembley Stadium and watching all the events on BBC iPlayer was amazing. Soccability shows that football is for everyone and anyone - it doesn't matter what your disability or ability is. If you want to play, even just for fun and be like your football heroes on the TV, then do it. Everyone is equal, football is equal."
John Smith from Basildon Soccability, added: "It was a wonderful experience for both our players and all the coaches as well. We started our FA People's Cup journey in the local Essex event in February, entering teams in the Championship, League One and Under 16s categories.”
“The Championship side failed to qualify, as did the Under 16s who just lost out to Westcliff on goals scored. Our League One team were in a difficult group, but they managed to win through on goals scored. We moved on to the Semi-Finals and they were fantastic, winning all their games and qualifying for the National Finals.”
“This was a great experience and we qualified for the Semi-Finals, only to have the heartbreak of losing on penalties. It's not possible for me to pick out one player as the journey to the National Finals was a total team effort. The group worked so hard and encouraged everyone, whether they started games or were used as a substitute.”
“The team has grown from its experience in the competition and reacted extremely well with the disappointment of losing on penalties. The experience has given the group much more confidence in future competitions.”
“Soccability is now an important aspect of grassroots football in that it enables adults and youth players the opportunity to compete in organised competitions, such as the FA People's Cup, whereas in the past they have always felt excluded."
Cindi Chatha, Essex County FA Development Officer, explained why it’s important to have Essex representation at this stage of the competition: “Essex disability football is growing each season, and the FA People’s Cup provides an additional competition to play teams from other counties.”
“It also allows the players to progress and represent their county nationally, which helps to raise more awareness of disability football within Essex. I’d like to congratulate all the teams involved from the First Round and, in particular, Basildon Soccability, as this was the first time that they have succeeded in reaching the finals.”
“A huge well done also goes to Westcliff United as they are a fairly new team who have only recently entered the Soccability League, so for them to go and win the People’s Cup is amazing for the players. Both teams represented Essex with great pride.”
To find out more about Soccability for players with a disability in Essex please click here, follow @EssexCountyFA on Twitter and search for ‘EssexFootball’ on Facebook.