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How Powerchair Football Helped Me Accept My Disability

27/08/2017 17:00 BST | Updated 28/08/2017 09:52 BST
JUAN MABROMATA via Getty Images

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Spin-kicks, tackling, passing, wheels screeching - these are all of the sounds and skills you will see in powerchair football. This fast growing sport has become very popular amongst some disabled people but many remain unaware of the sport.

Powerchair football is a sport that gives people with a physical disability the opportunity to play the beautiful game of football. Did you know it's the only active team participation sport for people who use electric wheelchairs? It's the most competitive sport that I have ever played. Off court all players are like one big family and good friends, but the minute we face each other on the pitch, our competitiveness kicks in for forty minutes. There is no better feeling when you're being hoisted into your football chair with your team kit on, ready to play. There are no words that can describe it, you've just got to experience it for yourself.

Five years ago I had never heard of powerchair football until my social worker told me about it. I remember watching the London 2012 Paralympics and thinking I would love to get back into sport. Previously I had played table tennis, but due to my condition (limb girdle muscular dystrophy) deteriorating I had to stop playing.

My social worker made me aware of a local club that was about to be set up that were hosting a powerchair football taster session. Since then, powerchair football has changed my life. I've gone from trying the sport to training every week, to now playing in the Muscular Dystrophy UK Championship national league and will be entering Hull and East Yorkshire Electric Eels third season.

Powerchair football has helped me overcome obstacles I've had to face over the years, such as accepting the fact I would become a full-time wheelchair user due to my condition. I've been able to gain so many key life skills from the sport including teamwork and communication. It has made me more aware of disabilities and how they can affect people differently.

The best thing about the sport is everyone is on the same level playing field. You haven't got the worry of whether someone is physically better than you as it's more about being mentally aware of what your opposition is going to do. In my opinion, this sport defines the community of any game, as the friendship and strong network that players and relatives have is unbelievable.

Just like in any other sport there is a cost to it, especially the equipment. The powerchairs that are used in the sport can range from £4,000 to £8,000. If you're under 18 then you've got much more access to disabled children's charities and grants, but for over 18's it can be harder to source the funding. But if you're a wheelchair user and interested in powerchair football, don't be phased by the cost. A vast majority of players source their own funding through setting up crowd-funding pages, which is what I did.

But there certainly needs to be more funding and investment made in powerchair football, especially for clubs who struggle to find an appropriate venue that can store equipment. The sport needs to have more than just financial investment for it to one day gain Paralympic status. It needs more publicity in the media to raise awareness and increase participation in the sport.

Looking back to when I was in my early teens, I was very much in denial about becoming a wheelchair user. I never wanted anyone to see that I was starting to need a wheelchair because I didn't want anyone to notice my condition was getting worse. I often speak to parents who have a disabled child going through the same thing.

But then I realised that a wheelchair can become your best friend, because without it you can't go anywhere. It's not the end of the world, in fact it opens up a whole new world such as powerchair football.

Don't be afraid to give something new a try and see where you end up.

If you'd like to know more about powerchair football visit www.thewfa.org.uk to find your nearest powerchair football club.

Kai is a member of Muscular Dystrophy UK's Trailblazers, a network of young disabled people who campaign to remove the barriers that prevent them from living full and independent lives. For more information, visit www.musculardystrophyuk.org/trailblazers

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