Published 01 February 2022 7 min read

England Cerebral Palsy team preparing to challenge world’s best

Written by:

Frank Smith

England Cerebral Palsy team will be taking part in the 2022 IFCPF World Cup in Barcelona between April 27 and May 16

England Cerebral Palsy team captain Matt Crossen says he backs his team against any side on the planet, as the Three Lions ramp up preparations for the 2022 IFCPF World Cup in less than three months’ time.

With the likes of Russia and Ukraine having players employed directly by their governments and training together in the region of 280 days a year, in the past there has been a gulf between some of the leading nations and countries such as England CP.

Whilst many of the England CP players feature for 11-a-side teams within mainstream football, countries like Russia and Ukraine have competitive eight-a-side leagues, which is more suited to seven-a-side CP football.

However, the gap between the likes of Russia, Ukraine and Brazil has been closing and England will be hoping they can better their fourth-place finish at the 2019 IFCPF World Cup when they travel for the latest edition in Barcelona at the end of April.

Speaking at the back end of last year, England CP captain Crossen said: “The guys are fit, healthy and baring a couple of injuries that should be mended by then, we will be ready to roll.

“On our day we can beat anyone, and we just have to be on our day when it matters.

“I will back our lads against anyone – 100 per cent.”

From left to right, Matt Crossen, Rhys, David Porcher and Giles Moore
From left to right, Matt Crossen, Rhys, David Porcher and Giles Moore

The Covid pandemic halted CP football for around 18 months but England CP have had two camps at St. George’s Park in the last three months.

After an initial camp at the end of October, England CP had their first match in almost two years during a camp over the weekend.

The Three Lions welcomed Redditch United Under-19s to St George’s Park, where their opponents were asked to replicate the playing style of the leading CP football teams to help with preparations ahead of the 2022 IFCPF World Cup.

The tournament is set to take place in Barcelona between April 27 and May 16 and England are eagerly awaiting to find out who they will face in the 16-team competition.

Before then, England CP are planning to welcome Scotland and the United States to St George’s Park for a camp in March, where all three teams will play each other.

Despite Covid halting competitive CP football, England’s technical staff helped create tailored training plans to help their players during the pandemic.

19 Apr 2021 1:00

Football Your Way campaign

Football Your Way has been launched to help develop, improve and raise awareness of disability football in England

Crossen, who started playing CP football following a stroke at the age of 23 whilst a semi-professional with Marske United, explained: “It’s been hard obviously with Covid, wiping things off the calendars, but we have been training non-stop. We have our own programmes covering six days a week and it has been about sticking to that. I’ve had an injury myself recently but the lads are all bang into their programmes and they have kept going with it every month. 

“It is just one of those things. We have a programme set to us ahead of our World Cup in April and we are gearing up for that really.”

On his own injury, the 31-year-old added: “I got an injury in pre-season so it has hampered me. I managed to play three of the opening games of the season but I was playing through pain and it was killing me so I went to physio. 

“It was the ankle bone between my heel and my ankle but England have looked after me so I have been working hard with the backroom staff to get back up and running.”

Cerebral palsy football is for ambulant players with cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders, caused by issues such as strokes and traumatic brain injuries. 

CP football consists of two 30-minute halves and each team has seven players, with a classification system used based upon what type of movement the individual has and where the impairment is located. 

There was a new classification system introduced to international competitions in 2018, ranging from FT1 to FT3, with the higher number having the more minimal impairment.

England CP stars David Porcher, Matt Crossen and Giles Moore with fan Rhys during a visit to Wembley Stadium in September
England CP stars David Porcher, Matt Crossen and Giles Moore with fan Rhys during a visit to Wembley Stadium in September

England CP’s Giles Moore, who is classified as a FT1 player, had been a star goalkeeper for his school sides at Neroche Primary School and Holyrood Academy in Somerset so his PE teacher called the FA to find out if there was any way of him getting involved with disability football.

It didn’t take long for the huge Yeovil Town fan to make a big impression at South West CP and Somerset Disability and he was called up for an England CP development squad and then shortly after that the senior team.

In his first tournament, the 2014 CPISRA European Championships, Moore was named goalkeeper of the tournament and he also represented Great Britain at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Moore, 24, said: “Playing for England is every lads’ dream. It means the world to me. I love turning up to camps and we are all very good mates. To put on the England shirt and to be number one, it doesn’t get much better really.”

Another player who, like Moore and Crossen, represented Team GB at Rio 2016 and is set to represent England at the 2022 IFCPF World Cup is David Porcher.

He was in Hibernian’s academy for seven years in his youth before being released and is now playing semi-professionally for Harefield United alongside going to St Mary’s University to train to be a PE teacher.

The 24-year-old has urged any young people who have a disability and a passion for football to look into joining a local side.

Porcher said: “To anyone considering getting involved with football, just do it. Don’t think twice. And don’t let any disability get you down. 

“Try to focus on yourself and push yourself forward because there are opportunities there now for everyone in football and it is only going to get bigger. 

“Even if it doesn’t work out at the start, don’t give up because there will always be that next chance. It happened with me. I struggled when I had those big knocks but it is about how you pick yourself up from those knocks and push yourself on to try to do the best you can.”

In October the FA announced an ambitious new three-year plan titled Football Your Way, to help develop, improve and raise awareness of disability football in England.

You can read more about the plan here.

Find out more about disability football