Thursday, 21 May 2015
Worcester-based England international blind footballer, Will Norman, has returned from South Korea, where he and his team mates secured silver at the IBSA World Games.
The World Games welcome blind and visually impaired athletes from across the globe. Similar to the Paralympics, they are an elite disability sports event held every four years, and featuring a range of sports - from athletics and judo to blind football.
Will, 35, from Worcester, was born partially sighted but lost his sight gradually due to a hereditary retinal condition. Having come to the sport of blind football late at the age of 28, he has still had time to squeeze in two Paralympic Games, a European Championship final, and a World Cup semi-final, but he and his team mates have never come as close to securing a major title as they did in Seoul, when they were beaten in the last few seconds of the final.
“We were leading the favourites Argentina 1-0 with only 37 seconds left on the clock,” he explains. “They grabbed a late equalizer, and an even later penalty, and just like that, it was gone. To say we were devastated would be an understatement, but we have to move forward, because the next challenge is a big one.”
This August the blind football European Championships are coming to Hereford, with a place at the Rio Paralympic Games up for grabs. As Will explains: “We don’t feel sorry for ourselves, we’ll bottle the disappointment from Seoul and use it to spur us on to go one step further in Hereford.”
Will works as a Communications Officer at the University of Worcester, which enjoys a strong reputation in disability sport. Keryn Seal, the captain of the England blind football team, is a graduate of the University’s Institute of Sport & Exercise Science.
Keryn, 33, from Exeter, is quick to acknowledge the importance of the University’s work in disability sport.
“When I was studying in Worcester, we had five of us who were based at the University and playing blind football for England,” he said. “It was great to be a part of such a strong disability sport setup. Now they’ve got the University of Worcester Arena and the wheelchair basketball, it sounds like things are going from strength to strength.”
Both Keryn and Will are quietly confident about England’s chances this summer. As Will suggests, their South Korean odyssey could be a springboard to further success.
“After what we’ve just done, people all over the world are talking about us. We’re certainly one of the favourites for the Euros now, and that’s fine by us, we’re looking forward to it,” he said.
For information on courses at University of Worcester come along to the Open Day on Sunday, June 21.