WANDERERS skipper Jason Lowe says he was bowled over by competitors at the Bolton Boccia Championships during a recent visit.

The midfielder dropped by at the USN Bolton Arena as 32 teams from 25 local schools and establishments competed for the top prize at primary and secondary school level.

More than 130 players with varying special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) pitted their wits against each other on a busy morning, with matches officiated by pupils from Thornleigh Salesian College.

Lowe mingled with the players and staff, stopping for a game which brought mixed results.

“They were excellent – I took them on in the first game and then I got it handed to me in the second one,” he told The Bolton News.

“The game was great fun, I really enjoyed it. I hadn’t heard much about boccia but the main thing is that the kids seem to love playing it and what a great event – they’re laughing and smiling, it’s what it’s all about.

“Speaking to the staff going around the venue they say it’s so important to get the kids out competing and having fun. It’s such a busy event, there are loads of schools taking part and it’s great to see.

“We know what great work the Community Trust do promoting the football club around the town, help youngsters enjoy and learn about sport and all the benefits it brings. Bolton Arena is a great facility and it’s been so relaxed, we’ve had a lovely walk around. I think some of the staff are more competitive than the kids – they just enjoy the game.

“I think I’ll stick to football. I’m not quite up to some of the standards I saw here so maybe I need a bit more practice before I take it up full time.”

For those not in the know, boccia has been a Paralympic sport since 1984 and is played seated, with the aim to propel your ball – coloured blue or red – on to the court, closest to the white jack ball. Each ball can be thrown, kicked, or rolled down a ramp.

Similar to bowls, it is a tactical game now played in 50 different countries, making it one of the fastest-growing sports around.

Run by the Bolton Wanderers Community Trust and the School Games Organisers, the event was also staged with the help of national charity Panathlon, who provide a pathway for children with SEND to represent their schools in competitive sport at various levels.

Bolton is the first borough in Greater Manchester to link up with Panathlon, which means 11 different inclusive events are now being offered to school age pupils in the town this academic year.

Boccia England’s National Schools League has also taken the event under its umbrella recently, which gives the winning teams a chance to represent Bolton in the forthcoming county championships and potentially beyond.

The primary final was contested between St James Jets and Gaskell, with St James edging the contest on a tie break after the game finished level at 2-2.

The secondary/post-16 years final was won by Yu-Gi-Oh Crew, representing Mount St Joseph, who beat Rolling to Victory, representing St Joseph’s 4-0.

Debbie Davies, the disability development officer at Bolton Wanderers Community Trust said: “To hear from the winning team’s teacher at Mount St Joseph that the players had phoned their mums in elation when they heard they’d qualified for the semi-finals sums up the passion and competitive spirit in the room,” she said.

“The event provides all children with the opportunity to represent their school in a team-based sport and be the best they can be.

“Huge thanks must go to the fantastic newly-trained young officials from Thornleigh, whose confidence on court and ability to officiate the games in an encouraging manner was a credit, and to Jason Lowe for coming down to support the event, experience the sport first-hand on court and interact with all players. It was a joy to see.

“We wish St James Jets and Yu-Gi-Oh Crew the best of luck in representing Bolton in the next stage of this competition.”