SYACL features in Wednesday program with a tribute to Darren

We would like to thank SWFC and Wednesdayite for featuring our League in their matchday program and allowing us to republish the article.

Mike paying tribute to Darren

Wednesdayite Column- Doncaster Rovers FC

Everyone associated with Wednesday extends a warmer-than-usual welcome back to Hillsborough for this afternoon’s League One local encounter with Doncaster Rovers. We also extend our deepest sympathies to the families who have lost loved ones over the last 18 months.

For the season ahead, the Wednesdayite matchday column plans to cover the buzzing Non-League, Ladies, Junior and Disability competitions – and the many fantastic volunteers – in and around our city, which is the true Home of Football.

It’s appropriate, then that today’s piece spotlights the South Yorkshire Ability Counts League, which features three Divisions of open-age 7-a-side footballers living with a range of disabilities, and three further Divisions of 5-a-side players living with mental ill-health or learning difficulties, including Autism.

The feature is particularly poignant today as Darren Warner, the SYACL Secretary and its key driver – alongside Darren’s friend and Chair Mike Stylianou – was also the founder of Club Doncaster Titans, which he set up so that his son, who has autism, and other boys and girls like him had a place to play football. Over time, the popularity of the Titans rocketed, further enhancing the chances for children and adults with disabilities or mental ill-health to play the game that we all love.

In 2019, Darren won the “Unsung Hero” award for the BBC Yorkshire region and was invited to the Sports Personality of the Year Award in Aberdeen, where he just missed the National Award.

Sadly, Darren died in January of this year, aged just forty-nine, after a period of prolonged ill -health; despite this, he remained a regular at SYACL matchdays as recently as the previous December. He leaves behind loving wife Sharon and sons Jordan and Cameron, and over three hundred footballers across six leagues and thirty-one teams who owe him a great debt and regard him as a True Titan of the game.

Rovers paid tribute to Darren ahead of their home game with Rochdale, and hundreds of families and friends paid their own socially-distanced tribute when the funeral cortege paused briefly outside the Keepmoat Stadium on its way to the Crematorium.

Darren’s was recently recognised posthumously as a Grassroots Football Coach of The Year by the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA.

In the meantime, the SYACL continues to grow under Mike’s leadership, and plans to add a junior division for the season ahead, offering even more playing opportunities.

The South Yorkshire Ability Counts League restarts in September. Seven-a-side and 5-a-side fixtures played alternately once per month, with participating teams from South and West Yorkshire, and from this season, North Lincolnshire.

You can read more about Darren, Mike, and the League at their excellent website or their Instagram or Twitter Accounts.

Enjoy the game.

Paul Holmes

Chair, Wednesdayite    

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