Newcastle United Foundation is delighted to announce Shola Ameobi has agreed to be a patron of the charity. His first official duty for the Foundation was presenting the inaugural Alder Sweeney Award to blind coach Paul Matheson.
The Alder Sweeney Award has been introduced in memory of John Alder and Liam Sweeney; Magpies supporters who tragically lost their lives in the MH17 disaster in Ukraine while en route to the club’s pre-season games in New Zealand last summer.
The award recognises a person or organisation that has contributed to grassroots football in the North East, making a real difference to the experience of those involved in it.
Earlier this year Paul Matheson, 51, became the first qualified Assistant FA Coach in the UK with no sight, thanks to support from Newcastle United Foundation and Henshaws Society for blind people.
Paul lost his sight as the result of optic nerve damage, caused by Glaucoma, and has been registered severely sight impaired for 10 years. The Toon fan was introduced to Newcastle United Foundation’s Visually Impaired training programme in 2013 where coaches encouraged him to work towards the qualification.
Paul now coaches adult and junior blind football for the Foundation and is an inspiration to many who find themselves in similar circumstances. He also recently achieved a life long ambition to coach on the pitch at St James’ Park as part of the Foundation showcase at the open training session.
On becoming Patron of Newcastle United Foundation, Shola Ameobi said: “I am so proud to have been asked to become a Patron of the Foundation. The work they do in the community is fantastic and I really want to help raise awareness of how they help improve the lives of so many people in the region.
“It’s an absolute honour to present the first Alder Sweeney Award to Paul. What he has achieved is amazing and the award is hugely deserved. It is fitting that this award is named after two Newcastle fans whose legacy will live on, celebrating grassroots football.”
Father of Liam Sweeney, Barry commented: “It is an honour for my family, to have this award named after our beloved son Liam and his friend John. It is a proud day for us to see the first recipient receive the Alder Sweeney Award.”