Get Active Disability Sport Disability News Perceptions and Opinions of Disability Shouldn’t Define You Alessio takes on Cambridge Half Marathon to raise money for the organisations that gave him football. Thursday 3rd March 2022 March is national Cerebral Palsy (CP) awareness month and to mark this we are shining a spot light on one individual - Alessio Verrecchia who on Sunday will be running the Cambridge Half Marathon to raise money for Cambridge United Community Trust as well as the Nottingham Transplant team. Alessio, 25 who has Cerebral Palsy, is partially sighted and has had a kidney transplant, plays football with CUCT (Cambridge United Community Trust). Alessio combines his studies and work as an Apprentice Engineer, with playing, and assisting in coaching multiple football teams. He is involved with CUCT Cerebral Palsy team, CUCT visually-impaired team, and Nottingham Adults Transplant team, which of course mean training sessions and games throughout midweek and at the weekends. Alessio said, “I have decided to attempt the Cambridge Half Marathon this year for a number of reasons. The first reason is to challenge myself both physically and mentally and hopefully achieve something I never thought I could. I also want to show people anything is possible and prove that other people’s perceptions and opinions of disability shouldn't define what you can and cannot do. I also thought this would be a great opportunity to raise some money for two amazing organisations that are very close to my heart.” “I got to the Transplant Games, and I started playing football with them, but that was just a few times a year. It got me hooked on playing regularly so I wanted something more regular, and disability based.” Those opportunities came through the Cambridge United Community Trust, and after meeting Phil Mullen, the Disability Sport Officer, through the Cerebral Palsy sessions there has been no looking back. It is now six years since Alessio started participating in the Trust’s sessions after being, in his own words, “a late bloomer with football”. After reconstructive ankle surgery in 2009 as well as getting his hamstrings lengthened. His mobility saw a big improvement, which in turn saw him fall more and more in love with football. Having had his first kidney transplant at the age of two, he had to have a second in 2012. Alessio added, “I would have liked to have played a bit more at secondary school, to be honest, I was a bit of a nerd in secondary school, and it wasn’t until Year 10 or 11 that I got into sports and choosing football in PE that I got a love for it.” On playing football and being part of the CUCT inclusive set up, Alessio explained more: “Training sessions and being part of a team is a lot more technical and it’s still fun, but you’re trying to improve at the same time and get your skills better; your teamwork as well.” “I feel like when I’m playing with friends and people who don’t really know me, they just see ‘there’s the disabled kid playing football, isn’t he good, let’s go easy on him. But then when you’re playing with people who know what you’re going through, they don’t take it easy on you and they criticise you more, which is good if you’re trying to get better.” “When I join a team and we all have disabilities and shared life experiences that’s another layer to it. During a league you are all aiming for the same thing and fighting for each other.” Phil Mullen was an inspirational figure to Alessio, as he is to many of the youngsters who take part in the Trust’s Disability sessions and was the driving force in helping him become a coach. “Everyone knows him, and everyone likes him, he is involved in all sorts, I regularly went week in, week out and he gave me more and more responsibilities until he eventually offered me the coaching opportunities. If he didn’t see anything in me, then he wouldn’t have put me forward and I wouldn’t be where I am today.” “There were a lot of youngsters in the group when we first started, and he was always telling me to speak to parents to tell them about my experiences to give them something to look forward to.” The three teams with which Alessio is involved are all slightly different propositions, and so it allows him to excel in different ways. “The Cerebral Palsy team is probably the most physically different because we all have a physical disability. You can almost gauge people’s ability. You can see what their strengths and weaknesses are, and you play to them. It is probably the most adapted for us, so we work on first touch a lot and balance.” “It’s really good as you get to see your friends every week. It’s a weird undertone of ‘we all have Cerebral Palsy but let’s play a bit of football’,” he says. Alessio started the CP team from the ground up taking part in their first ever season and rarely missing any training sessions. The team are still developing and placing the emphasis on team spirit and morale to build the team. “It’s the same with all teams, to be honest, we’re always trying to find new players,” says Alessio. Having gained so much from football, it is clear to all that Alessio is now putting so much more back in – and proving to be the master of juggling time. “I’m really proud of what I have achieved in life so far and especially in football, to play for three impairment specific teams, to help start the CP team from the ground up and compete in our first ever season as well as meet a lot of amazing people”. Post-Run Update from Alessio - Tuesday 8th March 2022 "This half marathon was my hardest and best physical achievement, so I'm glad I can inspire people with this. I don't enjoy running but if I can go out of my comfort zone and challenge myself and achieve it then anyone can." To support Alessio's Cambridge Half Marathon visit his Just Giving page.To find out how to get involved in Cambridge United Community Trust CP football sessions or other inclusive sessions see the full range of session available visit website or contact Phil Mullen by email or 07948 407950 a video of CP sessions (pre-Covid) is available through CUCT Facebook here.