Alex Iwobi surprised stars from Everton in the Community’s Disability Programme by joining them on a special Zoom call this week.
As part of the Everton’s Blue Family commitment, Everton in the Community staff have been keeping in regular contact with players from all 11 of its disability teams since lockdown began last March, via video calls and online training sessions – and plans are already in place for training sessions to return as soon as it is safe.
James Ditchfield, James Lang, Mollie, Daniel Daley, Kelsey Jones and Latif Ali, who each play for one of Everton in the Community’s disability teams, launched Everton and hummel’s seafoamgreen and charcoal design third kit in August – achieving the Club’s highest ever first day sales for a third kit. The launch also marked twenty years of Everton in the Community’s Disability programme.
Alex joined a call with the stars of the launch to find out how they have been staying in touch during lockdown, and what they are looking forward to when they return.
James Ditchfield, who has been a member of Everton’s Disability Programme since it began, explained how the teams are staying connected via online training sessions and social media groups, and said, “we don’t want to talk over the group, we want to be all together kicking a football around!”
James also showcased the shirt he wore in the hummel third kit launch – and on which he has since had ‘Disability 20’ emblazoned on the back, to celebrate the 20 years of the Everton in the Community Disability Programme.
Alex Iwobi showed his admiration for the how long the Disability Programme has been running and how it has grown during that time, saying “Football is for everyone – everyone should get involved in sport”.
Alex also spoke to the players about the WhatsApp group that the first-team players have been using to stay in touch in lockdown – and revealed who is the funniest in the group.
Steve Johnson, Disability Programme Manager, explained how the Disability Programme at Everton is “about giving disabled people the same opportunities as non-disabled people” and the pride that participants feel in representing the Club.
Jess McNally, Disability Development Coach at Everton in the Community, also highlighted how important it is for participants to stay in touch during lockdown, explaining that as well as providing social contact, the calls also allow participants keep up their fitness.
The participants also asked Alex their questions – with player Mollie asking Alex whether he enjoyed his recent lunch of Weetabix and beans!
Alex’s surprise call took place during Level Playing Field’s Weeks of Action, which celebrate inclusivity in sport. Now in its 17th season, for 2021, the campaign is shining a light on what clubs Disabled Supporters’ Associations, fans and other organisations have been doing to support disabled fans who have been shielded or isolated, and to ensure access and inclusion.
Everton has designated the game against Southampton as its official Level Playing Field fixture, and Everton Disabled Supporters’ Association (EDSA) will be the Blues’ virtual mascot for the match – the first time that a group of supporters, rather than an individual, has taken part in the activity.
Throughout Level Playing Field’s annual #WeeksofAction campaign, the Club will share videos and articles featuring some of Everton’s disabled fans and highlighting Everton’s commitment to inclusivity and access.
In December 2018, Everton launched All Together Now, its campaign to celebrate diversity and increase awareness of everything done by the Club and Everton in the Community to promote equality.
Since the launch, All Together Now branding and the tagline ‘a football family for everyone’ has been used across LED perimeter boards, the jumbotron screens and in concourses at Goodison Park on matchdays, while a number of initiatives and schemes to encourage inclusion and celebrate equality and diversity have been introduced or developed.