‘Monumental day in disabled football’ Merseyside VIFC takes back consecutive cup wins

Merseyside VIFC aim for back-to-back Handicap Cup wins as they face RNC at the home of English football on Sunday.

With the 2020 Finals canceled due to the pandemic, there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the blind football team to make history.

Two years after their 2-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion, Sunday’s final will be televised and broadcast across the country thanks to BT Sport showcasing the skills showcased over the two days.

Merseyside VIFC (Visually Impaired Football Club) is in its 11th year after its founding in 2010. It is a hybrid of visually impaired and blind footballers that attracts players not only from the region, but from the surrounding areas and countries. communities like Greater Manchester. the only hub in the Northwest.

They aim to give blind and visually impaired people access to competitive football.

Blind football is a 5-a-side game played with a modified futsal ball and a goalkeeper may be visually impaired or visually impaired, but must remain in his penalty area throughout the match.

Players wear headbands and use their sense of hearing to listen to the sound devices in the ball.

Sunday’s game has an element of rematch from the Merseyside club after being beaten in last year’s Brian Aarons Cup final against opponents this weekend

Azeem Amir played in his previous cup triumph and scored the game-winning goal in his victory, under contract with England, the 22-year-old studied without a real path to competitive sport until which he finds football blind at the age of 15 after struggling throughout his time at school to participate.

The University of Salford student, who had been visually impaired from birth, told ECHO: “I have always struggled to access sport because I was the only one in the class who couldn’t see that this ultimately limited the number of participants, how much sport I could play.

“The support I received was fantastic, they did their best but you knew it was a bit forced because you could never play on a level playing field.

“It was a completely new sport for me and like many others I thought it would be a car accident and you would be looking for the ball.

“But what I realized is that it is an elite sport, very tactical, technical and that it is played at all levels, from the grassroots and even below, from the recreational level to the at the Olympic level. “

Azeem’s desire to play sports is as heartwarming as it is inspiring. Although he lives in Rochdale, he had the opportunity to play for Merseyside VIFC at the age of 17 and continued to play for the England development team before moving on to the blind senior squad .

“I was very lucky to score the winner in 2019 before the 2020 cup final was canceled due to the pandemic,” he added. “I’m always happy to step onto the pitch because it doesn’t matter if it’s a training ground, a league or an international pitch, that love of football is what drives you, nobody doesn’t force you to play football, you do it out of pure love, passion and enthusiasm.

“It’s always a buzz and I hope the fire that lights the minute you step onto the pitch, the minute the first whistle is blown, will stay with me for a long time because it doesn’t. there is no other feeling like that.

“It was a fantastic buzz, especially because it was against England number one and the blind men’s soccer team’s first choice and scoring against him in a competitive game was all a buzz.

“He prides himself on having clean sheets and for hiding one behind him I always give him a bit of heartache but there is this friendly joke.”

He adds: “The emotions and feelings you get from football and winning – which is the most important thing – and scoring goals, there is no summit that can replicate that, I think.

“I am looking forward to this year’s final, my personal training and last year have been good for my personal development, I was able to train and really work hard. The hard work is done, the easy thing is to show up, play and enjoy the game and hopefully achieve a victory. “

Sunday’s final is part of a handicap football festival that airs on BT Sport. The big Merseyside VIFC game kicks off at 12:30 p.m. after a full fixture list on Saturday.

And Azeem thinks it’s a monumental opportunity for the sport.

“It’s absolutely huge, I described it as a monumental day for disabled football because the exposure it will get is absolutely huge,” he said.

“For a broadcaster to shine the spotlight on a sector of sports that is hidden and that not many people know about, we are going to give it a global platform and also free, they are not just broadcasting it on BT channels but on it. also broadcasting on their Facebook.

“It’s absolutely huge, not just for blind football, but for a wide range of disabled football, including Powerchair, Amputee and Partially Sighted, to get the airtime and exposure that sports really deserve.

“Our guys train day in and day out and people don’t know this exists and that’s what people do for a living, I’m hired by the FA to play Blind football and I would go as far as say 95 percent of the country don’t know it exists.

“I hope people flip through and all of a sudden they see people wearing blindfolds and they’re going to ‘hang on to what’s going on here? They’re actually pretty good “and I hope they maybe know someone with a disability to give them a little more of a push to keep going.

“The awareness of the individuals too, some of their stories, the players are really, really talented and they have the opportunity on Sunday to show their skills and they are not just a blind person with a disability, they can be so much more. than that and they are elite athletes.

“And it can be anyone, not just last week’s men’s team in the disabled EURO final playing a cup final, football is for everyone.”

Merseyside VIFC will play RNC Hereford on Sunday July 18 at 12:30 p.m. live on BT Sport and available for live stream on Facebook.

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