FOOTBALL teams are joining efforts to launch a new course for the blind and visually impaired in Oxfordshire.

The weekly training sessions are open now to eager players aged 18 and above.

Based at Acer Nethercott Sports Hall at Iffley Road Sports Centre, the course will be led by qualified blind and partially-sighted football coaches.

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The opening session was led by Steve Cunningham, ex-captain of the England Blind Football Team and a member of the England Blind Cricket Eleven.

The course will run on Thursdays between 12.30pm and 2pm, and organisers hope that they will be able to expand the programme in the future to include an under-18s team as well.

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The two organisations which have made this course possible are Oxford United in the Community (OUITC) – the football club’s official charity – and Oxford University Association football club.

The opening session was attended by able-sighted students from Oxford University AFC, so they could experience how the visually-impaired play sport and help launch the programme.

Chris Lowes, head of OUITC, said: “Hopefully we can inspire people to take part and enjoy sport and become part of a wider community.

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“We’re delighted to be expanding our provision and offering new opportunities to people in Oxfordshire.

“We’re extremely grateful for the generosity of Oxford United fans, Oxford University Association Football Club and the Oxfordshire FA for making this happen.”

The cost of coaching was funded by match ticket purchases by Oxford United fans.

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Additionally, Oxford University AFC donated money for the pitch hire and Bucks and Berks FA loaned specially adapted footballs and eye-masks.

Football development manager at the Oxfordshire FA Michael Thurlow described the project as ‘fantastic’ and ‘exciting’ and said they are ‘delighted’ to support OUITC to expand the disability football provision in Oxfordshire.

He added: “This supports our ambition to provide everyone in Oxfordshire with a disability an opportunity to participate.”

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Other key partners of the football course include Oxford United, Oxfordshire Association for the Blind, Oxfordshire FA and Active Oxfordshire.

Oxford United in the Community partners with schools, community groups, football clubs and other charity organisations to try to inspire youngsters to play football and improve their health and wellbeing.

This year the charity is celebrating its 30th anniversary and as part of the celebrations is raising funds to improve its work across Oxfordshire.

To help their efforts and donate to the cause visit https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/OUITC30YEARS.