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Published 23 November 2022 5 min read
England Para Teams

England Women's blind player Alice Hopkins on her love for football

Written by:

James Reid

Blind footballer explains how discovering the para game and becoming a part of the England squad has changed her outlook
Alice Hopkins had never played football two years ago but now proudly wears the Three Lions as part of the England women’s blind team.

Hopkins, 21, picked up football during the COVID-19 pandemic when the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford put on a taster session, and she's never looked back since.

And now, less than a year since the team’s very first training session, Hopkins and her teammates have played their first internationals and targeting next year's world championship.

“I don’t really get how I’ve got to this point but it happened!” said Hopkins.

“It’s been amazing, it’s a great experience to go through, going to the different camps, learning all these different things.
23 Nov 2022 0:49

Blind football explained

Find out more about the format of blind football

It has been a rollercoaster journey for Hopkins, who trains alongside studying at the University of Worcester, and she has seen a rapid development both on and off the pitch.

“My main issue was definitely confidence at the beginning,” she added.

“My sight is ridiculously minimal, like 0.01% vision yet I still insist on using it as much as I can.

“You’ve been blindfolded and are running around on the pitch, you need the confidence and it takes a lot of time to develop even the basics of dribbling around, getting yourself orientated around other people.

“It takes time but now I’m so used to doing it, it’s helping in real life in that I’m getting better at picking up on where things are, different noises and people around me.”
Alice Hopkins during a training session with the England Women's blind team at St. George's Park
Alice Hopkins during a training session with the England Women's blind team at St. George's Park
Hopkins’ football skills have been helped too by the strong bonds the new team have developed as they all go on their blind football journey together.

“We’re all in the same boat,” she said.

“We’ve got different levels of vision - I was born with it, whereas other people have lost their vision over time – but we’re all in the same boat and it’s become like a tiny little family.

“I love playing the game because I’m playing with people that I get along with really well.

“We’re building as a team – you’ve got those moments in the evenings where we can go and just sit and have a chat, socialise.

“When you get to know people, when you have spent so much time together, it helps that you’re much more confident when you know who you’re playing with and you’ve got that trust in each other.

“You can trust in their skills and what they’re going to do on the pitch.”
Hopkins is now looking forward to next year’s World Games as the women’s blind game goes from strength to strength.

The ultimate dream, however, is to compete at the Paralympics, where blind football is not yet a sport.

“I would absolutely love to be at the Paralympics,” added Hopkins.

“That would be amazing because as a kid, I would sit with my parents, and they’d describe the Games to me and that would be amazing to go there and do that and actually play.”

A Paralympic appearance would help raise the profile of blind football, something Hopkins has already seen thanks to her time with the Three Lions.

“It makes it more noticeable,” said Hopkins.
The England Women's blind squad were formed in late 2021 and have been training together throughout 2022
The England Women's blind squad were formed in late 2021 and have been training together throughout 2022
“A lot of it is just getting it out there and getting people to actually realise that this is a thing. I’ve got loads of friends who’d never heard of it before and then when I started playing, I’ve got them hooked.

“I’d love for more people to be involved – but also at the same time, more people involved means more competition!

“It’s about getting it out there and getting people to realise that this is a thing that’s going on, getting more awareness with all disability sport.”

Hopkins has come a long way in a very short space of time in her blind football journey and couldn’t have done it without one her number one fan, her guide dog Billy.

“He’s a little monster,” smiled Hopkins.

“He’s about seven and a half, I’ve had him for about five or six years, and I would be completely lost without him.

“Guide dogs aren’t allowed balls, because if you’re in the park they could see a ball and chase after it, but he comes with me when I’m practising.

“He’ll sit pitchside when I’ve got training and I can hear him crying because he wants to play.”