Arsenal worker Luke Howard: Bringing soccer joy to disabled
PUBLISHED: 12:07 05 October 2016 | UPDATED: 12:22 05 October 2016
Emma Bartholomew catches up with football-mad Luke Howard, who has just won an award for his work with people with disabilities
Lifelong Arsenal fan Luke Howard has been football mad since he was a tot – and now he’s able to bring his love for the sport to people who might not usually be able to play.
As Arsenal in the Community’s disability officer, he runs football sessions for people with mental health problems and learning disabilities, amputees, and people who are deaf or blind.
The 24-year-old felt “honoured” to be nominated by a colleague for the “Inclusion Partner of the Year” category at the London FA Awards 2016 – which he won for his “continuous dedication to inclusion”.
Luke, who lives in Archway, where he grew up, went to his first Arsenal match with his dad when he was six.
His dream was to have played soccer professionally for them, but he has now accepted that will never happen.
So landing a full-time job as disability officer five years ago at Arsenal was his way of getting involved with the club, and he felt “overwhelmed, proud and excited” to still be able to represent them.
He knew nothing about working with people with disabilities, and as courses are limited he has learned most of what he now knows on the job.
He has found working with amputees, aged from 18 to 35, “rewarding”.
He said: “There’s no common reason someone becomes an amputee. We have people who have lost limbs in a Middle Eastern war zone, in car crashes, through birth defects. We have someone who was a very good footballer who lost a limb in a bad tackle.
“I feel very proud to see them giving each other support and it’s inspirational to see the best of people in all situations.”
Football sessions for the blind are facilitated by volunteer guides, and adapted equipment includes footballs with bells inside.
Luke admits he has now stopped playing football himself in his spare time.
“If I’m honest it’s too much effort,” he said.
“It’s too much running around. Otherwise I spend all my life doing football.
“I still watch football at Arsenal, though!”