Skip to main content
Published 14 October 2022 4 min read
England Para Teams

'Discovering deaf football was a dream'

Written by:

Paul Martin

Para Lions ace Harry Boorman reflects on how discovering deaf football has changed his life


Watching his beloved Leicester City win the Premier League showed Harry Boorman that anything is possible in football.

But even in the right-back’s most ambitious moments, he could not have foreseen that being followed by representing his country before his teenage years were out.

That’s exactly what happened in 2019, however, when Boorman was part of the England Deaf side who headed to Greece for the European Championships to begin what he hopes will become a long and fruitful career on the international stage.

The pandemic may have put those plans on hold in recent times but, still just 21, the defender has his best years in front of him and hopes to be part of major tournaments at age-group and senior level over the next 18 months.

Boorman is still pinching himself at the opportunity he has been afforded and has found a band of brothers in the England Deaf set-up, led by captain Jamie Clarke – who the youngster credits as a particular source of inspiration.

“It was hard growing up playing hearing football,” he said. “I was the only deaf person and I always wore my hearing aids, so on a windy day you’d have the wind blaring in your ears.

“In some hearing games, I’d get called names. When I was younger, I’d have reacted badly and maybe got sent off. Now, I’m proud of who I am, proud of my background and consider myself a polite young man. No-one is going to change that.

“The skipper here, Jamie, was key to that mindset. He’s a cracking man and I look up to him highly.
14 Oct 2022 0:34

Deaf football explained

Find out more about the format of deaf football

“He's a role model and in football, I hadn’t had a role model like that until coming into the England set-up.

“In football, and in life, you need people to look up to. Jamie is really positive, and I wasn’t positive before about myself, thinking I wasn’t good enough.

“But then I realised it’s okay to make mistakes. If something goes wrong, you can put it right. As long as you work your hardest, that’s all you can do.”

Boorman, who grew up in Hinckley, now sees being a role model as an important part of his own status as an international deaf footballer.

A wise head on young shoulders, the full-back can often be found spreading the word about the sport to ensure talented young players are aware of the options available to them and stay part of the game.

“I get a lot of messages from parents of deaf children and I’ve been into quite a lot of schools to do speeches,” he said.

“I tell them the set-up is there for them to make the most of and that if you think you’re ready for a trial and you’re good enough, go for it and hopefully fulfil your dreams.

“If someone needs help, or there’s a deaf person I’ve seen play on the hearing side, I’ll pass on the message as for me, discovering deaf football was a dream come true.

“Hopefully we can show more people it’s there – quite a few people out there still won’t know about it. The more people who know about it, the more people it will help.”
England Para head coach Andy Smith, along with a sign language interpreter during a training session at St. George's Park
England Para head coach Andy Smith, along with a sign language interpreter during a training session at St. George's Park
Training at St George’s Park has certainly helped raise awareness of the squad, who are preparing for next year’s World Championships in South Korea.

It is not just the world-class facilities Boorman and his teammates relish, with the England Deaf squad also delighted to be operating on a level playing field with internationals across the national set-up.

“We had a training game on one of the [St George’s Park] pitches when the [senior men’s] England squad went down to Wembley for the EUROs final last year, and we were waving them off,” he said.

“They could see us there, cheering them on, and just to be in the same place as them at the same time was incredible.

“I first came to St George’s Park with my club, then Nuneaton Borough, when I was about 16.

“We came for a tournament, played in the dome and it was unbelievable. We only stayed one night and I was thinking ‘I’d love to stay here again’. Three or four years on, it’s my second home!

“Every single time I come, I’m always excited, if not more excited than the previous time. It gives me something to work hard for every single day and it’s a great environment to be in.”