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Woody Welcomes

  • Writer's pictureNatalie O'Rourke

Woody Welcomes Arsenal

We join the rest of the world in mourning the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. We thank the Queen for her 70 year service and like many others, we are coming to terms with her death. Woody understands her passing in a similar way to when Captain Tom sadly left us.

We are grateful that the game is going ahead to bring our football family together to pay tribute to Her Majesty. We look forward to honouring her extraordinary life and contribution that she made to the nation and world.

We would also like to thank the Metropolitan Police who will be serving at the Gtech and across London over this weekend. Even under immense pressure, their dedication to keeping us safe is admirable and we are so grateful.

Rest in peace, Your Majesty.

Woody Welcomes Arsenal

Who could forget the opening game of the Premier League last season as The Bees hosted Arsenal at home? After 74 years out of the top flight of English football, Brentford were back and boy did we stamp our intent on the Premier League. With the help of the fans, Woody included, in a pack out stadium, The Bees topped the

league after a 2-0 victory over the Gunners. Thomas Frank completed a lap of honour, acknowledging the contribution (and noise) of the home fans and not forgetting to share a moment with Woody - as is tradition.

On Saturday, as Arsenal return to the Gtech Community Stadium, surely they will have that defeat in their minds… especially after we slotted a historic five goals passed Leeds in our last home game.

Like Brentford, Arsenal are a team steeped in history and proud to play an important role in their community. Established in 1886 The Gunners were founded by a group of munitions workers who wanted some relief from their day job. With that sense of community imbued from the start it is no surprise that they so actively support numerous projects and organisations in the streets beyond the Emirates stadium.

Arsenal established ‘Arsenal in the Community’ in 1985, a pioneering community department in the football league. Today they support plenty of local clubs and organisations including North London United, a football group for children and young adults with Down syndrome - but more about them later.

Pedal Power

One of the amazing organisations Arsenal in the Community partner with is ‘Pedal Power’. This really captured Woody’s imagination as this is an club that supports people with disabilities to learn to ride a bike. Pedal Power was founded in 2004 and aims to provide adapted bikes to people with disabilities to enable them to have fun in a safe space, whilst raising awareness of community inclusion.

The founder of Pedal Power is Jo Roach and her Daughter, Suzie, has a learning disability. Suzie loves to cycle but they couldn’t find a suitable club for her to join. Not a problem… Jo started Pedal Power with just £600 raised through by throwing a tea party at her home.

In 2015, they partnered with Arsenal in the Community and began holding weekly sessions at the Emirates stadium. The following year the community project donated funds to build a new bike shelter. And since then the relationship has gone from strength to strength.

The sessions are free, with the youngest member just three years old… and the oldest, an impressive, 103! Members can use tricycles, fixed wheels, wheelchair cycles and two wheelers - which often results in much fanfare when achieved.

Check out Pedal Power here

Arsenal in the Community

We absolutely love the partnership between North London United (NLU), DSActive and Arsenal in the Community.

Arsenal in the Community work with NLU to provide opportunities for people with Down syndrome to enjoy football, get active and stay healthy. The club caters for people with Down syndrome from the age of 5 - 25 years old. Their sessions are held in the Community Hub opposite The Emirates and each session offers group warm up sessions, coaching practise and a match game. The club is supported by DSActive which provides coaching support and encourages people with Down syndrome to be active and healthy. This sounds like an absolute dream team of inclusion to us!

Arsenal Disabled Supporters Association

Arsenal have also impressed us with their level of engagement with the ‘Arsenal Disabled Supporters Association’. (ADSA). This group is an integrated part of the Official Arsenal Supporters’ Club, they have representation on the Arsenal Advisory Board and they have been a driving force behind raising the voices of fans who have disabilities.

One thing we think is great is the ADSA successfully campaigned for a Changing Places toilet to be installed at the ground. Arsenal were once again leading the way as the first club to do this.

The ADSA are currently campaigning for improved stadium announcements for those who are hearing impaired, as well as better accessibility for the blind and visually impaired to be able to enjoy the Arsenal museum and guided tours.

XHAKA and Julian

Finally, we couldn’t sign off without mentioning the somewhat beautiful friendship between Arsenal midfielder, Granit Xhaka and eleven year old, Julian. Julian has Down syndrome just like Woody, but the important thing here is, just like Woody and the Brentford family, Julian has formed a special bond with Granit that surpasses his disability.

In 2015, Julian was a mascot for Borussia Monchengladbach during Granit’s debut game. And they haven’t let the expanse of time or distance cool their incredible bond. Granit himself, points to the positive impact Julian has had on him, saying that even after a bad game Julian can cheer him up.

Like Woody’s famous first fist bump with Thomas Frank, which took him from ‘Woody with Down syndrome’ to ‘Woody the football fan’, Julian is simply Granit’s friend…

We love what football can achieve.

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