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Published 01 December 2022 5 min read
England Para Teams

England's Emma Brown: 'We're not a team, we're a family'

Written by:

Alec McQuarrie

Ahead of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we caught up with England Women's deaf captain Emma Brown


England Women's deaf football captain Emma Brown was a shy and anxious teenager when she arrived at her first international camp but now she is anything but. 

The 30 year old got her first taste of the national set-up back in 2009 when she was a Manchester United academy player. 

The winger is a model of professionalism, spending every waking minute away from her job as a chef-de-partie by training hard and eating well. 

And it's that unwavering dedication to the England badge that she hopes to pass on to the next generation of Para Lions stars. 

“I’ve been playing for England for 13 years now and to think back to when I first arrived at camp, I was so nervous,” recalled Brown. 

“So when we’ve got all these young players coming in, it’s important for me to make them feel comfortable in the team and share my experience with them.  
01 Dec 2022 0:34

Deaf football explained

See how Emma and her teammates play the format of deaf football

“Back when I started there were two players I looked up to and one of them was Laura Wiseman who was captain. 

“She was always smashing the fitness tests. I saw that and thought I want to be like her. I want to be the fittest in the team.  

“She told me, 'if you want to earn that Three Lions shirt, you’ve got to commit to training at home and give it everything. Then when you get back to camp you’ve got to smash training.' 

“I’m still one of the fittest, but these young players coming through have got more energy than I have. I think my age is starting to catch up with me.” 

But before the Manchester native calls time on her football career, Brown has a few scores to settle, including improving on two bronze medals at Euro Deaf and the World Championships. 

For now, that third-place finish in Bulgaria at the 2011 European Championships stands out as a highlight and testament to the character the England team have always shown. 
Emma Brown has been a regular in the England Women's deaf squad since 2009
Emma Brown has been a regular in the England Women's deaf squad since 2009

“We lost against Germany in the semi-finals 7-6 in such a close game. It was gutting. But we kept our heads held high and said 'let’s come home with a medal',” recalls Brown. 

“We played against Spain in the third-place play-off and we smashed them 6-1. It just showed how much it meant to us.  

“We’re not a team, we’re a family. If you bond well as a family, you’ll do so well as a team.” 

Aside from reaching finals in South Korea and Turkey next year at the World and European Championships respectively, Brown is keen to maximise what’s left of her career. 

She said: “You don’t play football for the rest of your life, so you’ve got to grab every opportunity you can while you can still play.  

“When I retire, I want to go travelling. But right now? I want to keep playing.”

For that to happen, Brown will have to take more time off from her work at The Yard restaurant in Kent where she is valued just as highly as she is in Lilleshall. 

She said: “They definitely miss me in the kitchen because I do the most cleaning. I’m pretty much the captain there as well.”