Football for kids with special needs

Football Mid North Coast board member Paul Sandilands (left), Matt Zarb, FMNC chairman Mike Parsons and general manager Bruce Potter discuss the proposed competition this week. It will be launched at Omaru Park on Sunday July 29.
Football Mid North Coast board member Paul Sandilands (left), Matt Zarb, FMNC chairman Mike Parsons and general manager Bruce Potter discuss the proposed competition this week. It will be launched at Omaru Park on Sunday July 29.

PLANS to start organised football games for children with special needs will be outlined at a social day/meeting to be held at Omaru Park in Taree on Sunday, July 29 from 10am.

This is the brainchild of Matt Zarb, whose eight-year-old son Marli is autistic.

Matt met with Football Mid North Coast chairman Mike Parson, general manager, Bruce Potter and board member, Paul Sandilands this week to discuss the project.

“We’ll be playing matches on July 29 and every Sunday from there,’’ Matt said.

This will be open for children of all ages who have special needs.

Matt asks any parent or guardian of children with special needs to be at Omaru on July 29.

Matt explained the games would be played on Sundays until the end of the football season, with the view of having a more formalised operation next year, where the players would wear football jumpers and be placed into teams.

Marli is the youngest of Matt and his wife Lesley’s six children.

“He loves going to watch his brother play soccer,’’ Matt said.

“We were at a game this year and at halftime Marli and I started kicking a ball around on the field.’’

Matt noted how much Marli was enthralled by the experience.

It was here he had the thought of starting some sort of organised competition for kids in a similar situation to Marli.

“I put down a few random thoughts on Facebook,’’ he said.

“And I got slaughtered by the response from people in similar circumstances.’’

It was here Paul Sandilands became involved. He was tagged in the Facebook post and immediately contacted Matt to offer assistance. They discussed the logistics of starting the competition and Paul then organised this week's meeting with Bruce Potter and Mike Parsons, who assured Matt he will have FMNC’s full backing.

“We’ll be registered under the Football Mid North Coast banner which is a big thing  and we’ll have their logo on our jumpers,’’ Matt said.

“Paul, Bruce and Mike have been wonderful.’’

Matt quickly added it will be a competition in name only. No scores will be kept and there won’t be any finals played.

“But the kids will wear footy jumpers and footy boots and they’ll be kicking the ball around, even if the games aren’t overly long. They’ll feel part of a team, it’ll be a sense of belonging,’’ Matt explained.

“Obviously there’s going to be degrees of disability along with age differences and that’s something we’ll look at when we get going.

“We’ve chosen Sundays because it will be easier for families with kids playing sport on Saturdays.’’

Regular updates on the July 29 social day along with any further developments can be found on the Facebook page Rainbow Warriors FC.

Matt hopes games will eventually be taken to grounds around the Manning and Great Lakes, but this has yet to be finalised. 

“This is going to have a positive outcome for the kids and their parents,’’ Matt emphasised.

"It’s about inclusion. It’ll also get the kids out doing something active and healthy – kicking a footy around, meeting other kids and having fun.’’