From just a handful of members when it began initially last April, Forfar Westend Para-Footbal l Team has gone from strength to strength and grown in popularity as word has spread, and it now has 22 players, aged between 16 and 50, with both five and seven-a-side teams.
And the club, all of whose members have some type of disability, has plans to take its activities further, with both teams playing in the Scottish PAN Disability Football League from March.
The driving force behind the initiative is Forfar couple Barry and Anna Robbins, who set it up after realising that there was no comparable organisation in Angus for players with disabilities. Since last year they have run its activities between them as well as co-ordinating fund raising and finding sponsorship.
Barry said: “We believe that we're the only para-football team in Angus and our aim is to encourage people with a disability in Angus to come along and give it a try. There are a lot of people who aren’t able to join football teams because of their disability, or feel that they aren’t able to do it.
“We aren’t focused on disability but ability, and if someone can kick a ball, they’re welcome to come along. It’s also open to all ages over 16, male and female, so all are welcome.”
And team members have found the benefits of belonging have gone far beyond phy sical fitness and confidence-building. Anyone with a disability is accepted, although wheelchair users have their own league, and those who go along to training and matches have found there is a strong social element.
Barry continued: “It gives people the chance to get out, get fit, meet new people and get more involved in the community. One player said that it's been great for her mental health, and we have a Forces veteran in the team who has said the same, that she forgets everything while at football.”
The club’s current project is to raise funds to buy a minibus, which will allow players to travel to Falkirk to take part in league matches.
Its target figure is £6000, of which £2000 has been raised so far, and plans are in hand for the team to have its own training area which it will hopefully have in place next year. Currently members train twice a week at Forfar Community Campus.
Support from local businesses, organisations and individuals has also been positive, including Forfar Westend Juniors, who were happy to have the teams affiliated, but since getting the team off the ground Barry and Anna have been working hard to keep up the momentum and implement some fairly ambitious plans.
"We’re looking to lease an area of ground and are waiting for confirmation for an area we’ve been looking at, with the aim of creating our own astro pitch,” said Barry. “After that we hope to open it up to children and other age groups.
"From the start it’s been all go and it feels as if we've been doing it 24/7. At the moment it’s just the two of us, but we’re starting to approach supporters to create a committee. I look after one team and Anna the other, and even with just two teams it’s difficult. It’s getting bigger and we aren’t going to be able to keep running it ourselves."
As well as forming a committee, Barry and Anna are also keen to hear from anyone willing to volunteer in any capacity, including coaching roles.
He added: “Anyone who’s willing to volunteer is welcome onboard. At the moment we train on Sundays and Mondays for two hours, and when the league starts it will be on a month on a Sunday.”
Anyone willing to support the team can email Barry at email@example.com or call 07708 019556.