Published 26 May 2022 6 min read
England Para Teams
Kaitlyn Clark: 'Wearing the kit puts it all into perspective'
As the newly-launched England Women's blind team kick-start their preparations, hear from one of the founder members of the squad
Kaitlyn Clark can’t quite believe she is representing England.
Despite being just 17, it's been a long journey for Clark to get to the point where she is representing the Para Lions’ women’s blind team.
Clark played for many years in non-disabled sides but found opportunities on the pitch limited due to her visual impairment.
“It feels quite surreal,” said Clark.
“Sometimes you feel like you don’t deserve it, but then you realise you do because of all the hard work; you wouldn’t be here without a reason.
“I had a lot of struggles through mainstream football, with being singled out because of my visual impairment. I was forever having to prove myself to even get five minutes on a pitch.
“Then I moved to pan-disability men’s football, where again I had to fight and prove myself and I’ve just gone and proved them all wrong.
“With everything I’ve had to go through, just wearing the kit puts it all into perspective and makes you think, maybe I do deserve it for everything I’ve been through.”
The teenager is part of England’s new women’s blind football team that will make their first appearance at a major tournament in Italy in the coming weeks, a prospect Clark is relishing.
“It’s getting exciting. Obviously, there are nerves there, there always will be but it’s just getting exciting really,” she added.
“It’s been one heck of a journey. You go from being a normal football player to being an elite football player.
“It happened really quickly so it was confusing at first, you’re suddenly in the kit and then you realise you’re an England player now.
“Our first international competition, and we’re looking quite strong as a team, hopefully we can come back with something.
“Hopefully from going to the Euros, it will broaden people’s views on it and make it more known.
“I think that would be one of the greatest things from what we’re doing - to put it on the map and give other people opportunities that they may have missed out on.”
Raising the profile of blind football is something Clark is keen to do through her appearances with the Para Lions, with the hope that more opportunities will be afforded to blind and visually impaired footballers.
“Everyone that has an interest in football and is blind or visually impaired shouldn’t close off the doors to playing football because there’s no pathway out there when there is, it’s just slightly hidden,” said Clark.
“I think if the visual impairment pathway had been in place sooner, I could've probably furthered my development a lot quicker, but even then, it’s still developed pretty quickly.”
Clark is now firmly ensconced in the pathway after taking part in the very first camp for the women’s blind team in the summer of last year and has formed close connections with her new teammates on and off the pitch.
The players meet for regular camps at England’s elite training facility St George’s Park, and Clark knows the on-pitch benefits of strengthening their relationships off it.
“It’s a proper family, team bond,” added Clark.
“You can have a laugh with them, you can have the serious talks with them, you can confide in them if you’re struggling.
“The more we bond off the pitch, the stronger we are on the pitch, so we just get on with it and make sure we’re bonding, play some Uno every now and again.
“It went upwards really quickly, to start with none of us knew each other and we were not talking and now we’re all really getting along, like sisters, and in the space of about seven months we’ve connected and bonded really well.
“If one of us is away it’s like a part of the family is missing or you’re missing a body part.”