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Published 24 June 2022 6 min read
England Para Teams

'In our deaf community, football plays a key role'

Written by:

Emma Brown

The latest in our collaboration with Goal Click sees England Women's deaf player Emma Brown take us through her story and involvement in football


My name is Emma Brown and I play for the England Women's Deaf team.

I currently have two jobs - my main job is as a chef de partie at The Yard restaurant in Faversham in Kent, and then I work part-time as an FA role model and public speaker. I attend different events speaking about my experiences as a player and the FA Talent Pathway.

I'm originally from Manchester and my family are massive Manchester United fans. I always watched football at Old Trafford growing up. In primary school, I loved playing football with the boys at lunchtime as girls’ football was not big back then. But I didn't care that I was the only girl playing - I just enjoyed football.

When I was 14, the Manchester United Foundation came into my school and ran a football session. I heard for the first time that there was a Manchester United girls’ team! I did not know a girls’ team existed, as I had always been playing with the lads.

I thought that it'd be a dream to play and wear the Manchester United shirt so I gave the trials a go and I was successful, and I started playing with the Manchester United U16 girls' team.

That's how my football journey began. The best season I had at Manchester United was with the U18 squad, when we won the treble.
I had struggles as I was the only deaf player in the squad. The communication was a struggle, especially not being able to hear everything that the coaches said. I would often remind the coaches that if they needed to communicate with me, it was important to face me so I could lip read.

Because of my deafness I used to try and stay in the background, but I would watch the coaches demonstrating set pieces and learnt my skills this way.

My first ever call up for the England Deaf squad was in 2010 and my first tournament was the Euro Futsal Championship in Switzerland.

It was a dream come true. All of the hard work had paid off and I felt as though I had earnt the Three Lions shirt. It is such an honour to play for your country.

When I play for the England Deaf team, I feel they are like my second family. I fit in, as we are all the same and we know how to communicate with each other.
I took photos of the England Women’s Deaf football squad, including an England training camp in Portugal and tried to show a broad range of training, set pieces and fitness sessions. I also wanted to show how the team works as a unit, and that we also have fun whilst working hard.

In one photo, we are playing rounders during a break in training. Even on downtime we are active. This helps with our performance on the pitch as we are like an extended family.

In our deaf community, football plays a huge role as for some of the team it's the only time they get to mix with other deaf people. It provides an outlet for the frustrations faced in daily life. Deaf awareness is getting better but is still lacking in some areas.

Football gives a sense of belonging and reduces the isolation that some of the team feel.

Football is my escape. I can switch off from everything else and enjoy the game.

My goal is to earn many international caps as I can. I want to be the most capped deaf female player. I want to win a gold medal at one of the international tournaments that we compete at. But most importantly I aim to grab whatever opportunities are out there for me.

I'm really excited for the future. I can see a massive change in the way women’s football is progressing.

Women’s football is growing massively. I love grassroots football. It's not just about football – it's important for socialising, your mental health and being part of a community.

We had our first ever England Deaf overseas training camp recently and there are more to come. The England talent pathway is a good way for young players to work their way up and progress to senior team level.

Away from England, I think that clubs in the local community would benefit by becoming more deaf aware and make football more inclusive to deaf players, for example using coloured cones for signals.

This is where a coach uses a coloured cone to give instructions, such as red for sprint or blue to pass. This gives us a clear visual instruction as we are not allowed to wear hearing aids in deaf football.

Small things can make a massive difference.

There are not many deaf teams in the country. To play for England, we have to play regular football for higher tier teams and unfortunately deaf teams at this level simply do not exist. It's important for deaf people to integrate themselves in both hearing and deaf communities.

I try to be positive in everything I do. You never know who is looking up to you and your actions could inspire their journey.

That person may feel that because they have a disability, they cannot do something. But no matter what disability someone has, they can always achieve things and enjoy football.

I want to share my journey and let people know that although I am successful now, I had struggles like them in the past.