'Playing partially-sighted Futsal for England has taught me life lessons - discipline, drive and respect.'
ENGLAND FOOTBALL X GOAL CLICK
My name is Harry MacDonald, I’m 22 and I play partially-sighted Futsal for England.
As well as this, I also work full time as a manager of a youth community centre which is a place to support vulnerable or socially excluded young adults, offering help and a way out of some hard situations.
I originally started playing football at the age of 14 at Disability4Sport (D4S) in Colchester. It was an inclusive space, where everyone was equal. It’s also much easier to see while playing five-a-side. It’s more of a quick tempo game, which I love!
I only started playing Futsal when I was with England and I love the format because it’s quick, technical, and easy to see.
I played my first match for England in 2018 at the European Championships in Georgia. One of our players got injured before the tournament, so I got called up. My first game was against Italy, and I got a yellow card within 45 seconds!
But it felt amazing to make my debut and I had legs like jelly when going onto the pitch.
It has been a rollercoaster from the start to the present day, but this has contributed to my journey. With any sport, there are ups and downs. There are times where you feel you have not done enough to start a game and other times where you score a great goal or play well and help your team through tough competitions.
My main highlights have been going away on my own to residential camps at a young age to winning a silver medal at the partially-sighted World Championships in Turkey in December 2019.
I’ve also overcome many barriers along the way, including bullying, as well as any normal barriers that come with being a high-level athlete. From skipping social time with friends to train to getting up on cold, dark mornings to go for a run.
With the camera, I took photos of my teammates in the partially-sighted England squad. These were mostly at St George’s Park, the Tri Nations in Benidorm and other small residential camps with the England squad.
Spain offered to host a friendly tournament to keep the ball rolling for international Futsal after so long away due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The photos capture us all doing what we love and show us working as a team while also having a laugh together.
When the team is together on the coach, this is always my favourite time. There is a build-up of excitement and nerves before a game.
A lot of us play together or against one another in the visually impaired league which gives us more time together.
We’re a close, tight squad. We all appreciate that we have all had a journey to get where we are with a disability. England camps pick up about four or five months before a big competition. Until that point it is not often that we meet as a whole squad.
My ambition in Futsal this year is for the squad to win our first gold medal at the IBSA World Games, which are the international games for blind and partially sighted athletes, that take place in Birmingham this summer.
Futsal is a place to connect with people I wouldn’t otherwise meet. For me, it’s a release where I can go on the court and forget about any problems. I do strength and conditioning training four times a week, I play most weekends, and do Futsal training twice a week.
Playing partially-sighted Futsal for England has taught me life lessons - discipline, drive and respect.
I considered myself very ignorant before getting into the England squad as I was very straight minded and stubborn with regards to other people’s journeys. I think I thought I was the only one that had it tough. I was soon woken up.
Playing Futsal has helped me grow as a person by showing me that you must put yourself in uncomfortable situations to progress.
Disability sports are growing. This is exciting because more people are getting the opportunity to play and get support. However, more community funding is necessary to boost participation.
Playing Futsal is one of the best things a blind or partially-sighted person could ever do. They can be in a place where they are not judged, and everyone is equal.
I always want to tell my story, because everyone must start somewhere, and I want to show that anything can be achieved.
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