I visited Amir Laksari today to find out more about the Sparrows. Mr Laksari came over from Iran as a political refugee in 1986 and soon after he joined a wheelchair basketball team, becoming very heavily involved.
Traditionally the Sparrows Wheelchair Basketball Club has been mainly a refugees / ethnic minorities team. Something like 30% of the people in the team and half the people on the Management Committee are from Haringey – albeit Haringey wouldn’t negotiate a reasonable price for them to use Tottenham Leisure Centre to practise and play so instead they had to go to Hackney.
The club is extremely successful and has won tournaments in a host of different countries. In a particularly memorable example Mr. Laksari described when they only had enough money to send five members of their team, but won games against other teams who had the full quota of 12 players! The famous Ade Adepitan used to play for their club.
They used to play in Haringey but are currently in Hackney. Mr. Laksari wishes that Haringey Council would be more supportive, both in terms of championing the achievements of the team and also possibly providing some financial support.
Competitive wheelchairs for basketball can cost £2,500. The organisation was given £8,000 lottery funding – but that is not enough for them to repair or provide the special wheelchairs -nor pay for practise facilities – nor help with their expenses in competing abroad.
We say we want integration and participation for those with disabilities – but we don’t seem to do that much to help.
I am writing to the Leader of Haringey Council to seek support for the team and to try and link up the schools and the Sparrows so that there is a pathway into the team from our local schools. I will also write to the Olympic Committee for the Paralympics to see if they can try to make sure the Sparrows Club benefits from the investment for the London Paralympics. Surely any such team that is inspiring and achieving ought to reap some benefits from the zillions it is costing London to host the event.