In a sparkling ceremony at the East Winter Gardens on 9 April, Outward’s celebrated football team won the Canary Wharf Group’s Team of the Year award at the firm’s 18th Sports Personality of the Year event. The team, officially known as Vallance Disability Football Team, was one of a number of teams short-listed for the award. These teams had beaten competition from scores of other teams in Tower Hamlets. Given the competition, the win, says Abul Bashar, Outward’s inspirational coach, was a ‘massive achievement’.
The team, CJ, Jonathan, Ryan, Shahin and captain Wobi, collected their award before an audience that included former Nottingham Forest, West Ham and Aston Villa striker, Marlon Harewood, and former England cricketers, Monty Panesar and Devon Malcolm.
Mervyn Barrett, who was present at the event, writes:
‘It was a night that those present will remember for a thousand years. Before the awards ceremony began, we were treated to a dynamic performance from a dance ensemble. It was a case of Strictly meets street-dance styles minus Strictly. Our footballers, dressed to the nines, loved the occasion. When later volunteers were sought to take part in a karate exercise, a sea of hands went up from the Outward/Vallance tables, causing a look of panic on Abul and colleague Rokib’s faces. I feared that they might have to wrestle with CJ and others to prevent them from rushing on to the stage.
‘The music throughout the evening was loud and thumping. It was not for anyone brought up on Tiny Tim and with a taste for the dramatic lowering of vocal and instrumental volume. I went away with my first headache since 2012.
‘There were lots of inspirational speeches, people saying things like ‘I didn’t come this far to only come this far’ and ‘If you reach the top of the mountain, find a bigger mountain’. For those of us whose maxim in life is ‘Goodness, look at the size of that hill, is there any way we can go around it?’ it was motivational overload. But it didn't matter.
‘What mattered was that a group of people who we supported who had not previously known each other had come together, had trained as a unit, had taken their team responsibilities seriously, had developed greater confidence and independence as a result, and had all become friends for life. This was evident on the night as they shared their success. And it was genuine success. The venue was packed with truly amazing people picking up awards that evening and for our football stars to be among them, this was incredible.
‘The evening ended with the team rushing to the stage, where they took lots of photographs between them while a Health & Safety official complained to me that the Outreach Team Manager, Helga, was in danger of falling off the stage. She wasn't. Fortunately I had developed mild tinnitus by this stage and found it easy to ignore him.’