Eli follows in footsteps of hero Matt Grimes thanks to Swansea City AFC Foundation pan-disability PL Kicks sessions
Swansea City superfan Eli Fisher had long dreamed of emulating his hero Matt Grimes by representing the club he loves, and thanks to Swansea City AFC Foundation’s pan-disability Premier League Kicks sessions, his dream came true earlier this year.
The disability sessions have been running since the start of 2023, and 11-year-old Eli has been a consistent participant from the very beginning, which meant he earned the opportunity to represent the Swans at the Premier League Disability Festival tournament in Wolverhampton in June.
After winning that tournament, the squad were invited to walk out with their Swans heroes as mascots for the Northampton Carabao Cup game in August, and Eli led the team out with his favourite player, captain Grimes.
As a thank you for being an inspirational representative of both Swansea City and the Foundation, Eli was recently joined by Grimes for a game of bowling at Superbowl UK - sponsors of the family section of the Swansea.com Stadium's South Stand - and the Swans midfielder thinks it is brilliant that the junior Jack has been able to emulate him by representing his club.
“It gave me goosebumps walking out with Eli as mascot; it was absolutely amazing,” said Grimes.
“He’s such a great lad and to give him opportunities to pull on the Swans shirt and do what he’s always dreamed of is just brilliant.
“You can see his face light up every time he goes on the pitch, so everything that we can do to make the lives better for people like Eli is fantastic, and he and I really enjoyed the evening at Superbowl UK.
“It’s been class, I love spending time with Eli and his father, Greg.
“They’re such a great family and we’ve built a really special relationship over the last five or six years.”
Grimes also hailed the positive impact of the pan-disability sessions, and the enjoyment they bring for the participants and their families.
“Opportunity is massive in life, so to bring as much joy as we can to brilliant kids like Eli is something that can’t be overlooked,” he added.
“It’s just a brilliant time when everyone is happy and we can give Eli the opportunities to fulfil his dreams.
“The work that goes into the Foundation’s disability sessions is incredible, and it’s inclusive so everyone can have the opportunity to wear the kit like Eli, to enjoy themselves and live their lives to the max. It’s a great way to be able to give back to the community.”
The pan disability sessions are for children aged eight to 18 who are facing challenges such as autism, learning difficulties, physical or mobility issues and sight or hearing impairment, and provide the opportunity to take part in inclusive football sessions, which are completely free to attend.
“Giving them the chance to kick a ball around with people that they may not have played with a lot, and understanding people with different disabilities, that’s the main aspect of it,” said Andrew Dyer, the Foundation’s PL Kicks coach who started the pan-disability sessions.
“We’re seeing Eli become more confident, learn different skills, improve his footballing ability, it’s so fulfilling to be a part of his journey.
“The bowling opportunity was brilliant for everyone involved.
“We wanted to show we’re so grateful to Eli and his family for their commitment to the Kicks sessions, representing our club and turning up every week with a big smile on his face.
“We are glad to be able to give him something special in return by meeting his favourite player.”
In addition to attending the Foundation sessions Eli, along with his family, has admirably raised awareness of Down’s Syndrome through Hands up for Down’s, a charity treasured by his mother, Sam.
And Eli’s father Greg says attending the sessions has done wonders for Eli’s confidence.
“The sessions have been fantastic, the club have been superb as well. Being part of a team, that team spirit, inclusivity of playing football, celebrating and winning as a team, it’s so important for his development,” he said.
“Seeing the little smile on Eli’s face is fantastic, we can’t ask for anything better than that.
“I am a lifelong Swans fan and seeing Eli walking out with the captain against Northampton, it made me so proud and it all came from taking part in the Kicks sessions.”