Downs Syndrome Football Partnership

Carlton Cole, Danny Gabbidon and Kieron Dyer have all taken time out of their schedule to promote an event involving the Down Syndrome Extra 21 charity.

Held under the auspices of the Premier League's Places for Players initiative, West Ham United were able to hand over £20,000 to the charity to establish a proud partnership. That handover came before the three Hammers took part in special activities with a group of youngsters out on the Boleyn Ground pitch.

The sessions organised by the club's renowned Community Sports Trust included athletics work, whereby those involved were doing basic sprinting, hurdle jumping and javelin throwing, and football skills, with the focus on passing and receiving as well as shooting technique.

Cole was delighted to take part. "This is about more than football, it is life," he said. "You have got to do these things and I feel privileged to be involved. It takes your mind off what you are doing and shows you there are things in life more important than football.

"I am so happy to be involved and the club should be proud that we are involved in such things. They had a lot of fun and so did I. Just to be involved here is such an opportunity for me and I am so happy to be part of it with all the kids."

Keiron Dyer

Gabbidon added: "We are seen as role models and it is good for us to work with the kids. There is a lot of money in football so if there is any way we can help these younger kids it is great. A lot of them come to watch us play and it is important the club support good causes and give something back to the community.

"I am sure we could just hand over a cheque but we have a great community department that are working hard and getting involved. It is a lot better and more rewarding for everyone involved. It is iust important to get active and get the kids running around."

Dyer said: "It was incredible to see the kids. They haven't got a care in the world and are loving life. It was very humbling to be there and enjoy the experience with them. It was really good.

"The Premier League and a lot of clubs have done many things for charities. If it benefits the kids and helps them, I am all for it. As players we are delighted to show up and give them our support. There is me getting upset when I get a little injury here and there but these kids are getting on with life and it is just fantastic."


Danny Gabbidon

Mick King, CEO of the Community Sports Trust, said: "The partnership with Down Syndrome Extra 21 is both exciting and challenging. As demonstrated at our community event, it is also rewarding - to coaches, players, participants and parents alike.

"The players all took inspirational roles in coaching athletics and football topics. The participants responded to their enthusiasm, warmth and commitment as much as their celebrity status as footballers.

"The Trust's coaches will continue to provide opportunities to the group and help them progress both technically and in developing their self-esteem as young footballers and athletes."

Greg Stuttle, chairman of Down Syndrome Extra 21, said: "Down Syndrome Extra 21 are honoured to have been selected by West Ham United. DSE21 has been very supportive of the recent Down Syndrome Active football programme and we have been delighted at the positive impact it has had on everyone that has taken part.

"As a parent of a young boy with Down syndrome I have seen first hand how it has helped increase my son's confidence, helped improve his co-ordination and it has been a real pleasure to watch him play football like his older brother with a big smile on his face. It really has been a fantastic opportunity for him."

"We feel it is very important to keep this project going and we would also like to make it available to a wider group of people in Essex. This very generous donation of £20,000 by the Premier League from the Places for Players initiative will allow us to set up further training sessions in other parts of the county to reach those people with Down syndrome who have struggled to travel to the existing sessions.

"This funding will also enable DES21 to employ a co-ordinator to help set up a structured programme of football and other sporting events to be run in conjunction with West Ham that will carry on the good work started with the DS Active campaign."

Patricia James of the Down's Syndrome Association said: "Despite the rain, everyone had a fantastic time demonstrating their new-found skills and excitement for football. The highlight of the event was when Carlton Cole, Kieron Dyer and Danny Gabbidon joined the Down's syndrome team on the pitch.

"Together they worked on drills and even participated in a match with the older players. The excitement about being involved was apparent in all their actions from taking the time to review drills one and one with the players, signing autographs and taking photos along with exchanging a simple high-five and job well done."

Gabbidon and Dyer presenting the cheque