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Published 04 January 2023 4 min read
Goal Click

'I want to encourage more disabled people to get involved with football and have a career in the game.'

Written by:

Stephen Hunt

In the latest of our collaborative series with Goal Click, Stephen Hunt takes us through his life in football with a disposable camera...

England Football x Goal Click

My name is Stephen Hunt, and I'm 51 years old. I currently play for Liverpool FC Foundation in the Merseyside Ability Counts League and I also coach and volunteer for the Foundation in disability football. 

Since 2015, I've been head coach of FC PHAB (a pan-disability football team based in Liverpool) which plays in the Merseyside Day Centre League created by the Liverpool County FA. I'm also a Liverpool supporter and season ticket holder.

I have spina bifida, a condition when the spinal cord does not develop properly. In my case, I have myelomeningocele spina bifida which affected my bowel and bladder, and my walking ability with paralysis below my knee that affects my calves, ankles, and movement of my toes. My late father taught me to walk on my heels.

I've loved playing football ever since I was able to walk. I used to play football with my father in the street. I watched Liverpool FC on TV from when I was about three years old and Sir Kenny Dalglish inspired me to get involved and join a team after he scored the winner in the European Cup in 1978. 

I had a burning desire to play football and have a career in it. I played for my school Harold Magnay School in Liverpool and with able-bodied friends but in the 1970s and 1980s there were very few other opportunities for disabled people to play. I kept playing with my friends and dreaming about plans and ideas for disability football.

In 1999, I discovered the Ability Counts League sponsored by One2One. It opened doors to me and many other disabled footballers. Over the next few years, I worked with Merseyside Sport, the Liverpool County FA, Greenbank Sports Academy, Everton FC in the Community, and others to get disability football off the ground. 

Then in 2003, with the support of Merseyside Sport, I went for trials with the Liverpool FC Foundation Ability Counts team and started playing for the team. Playing for Liverpool FC is what I'd always dreamed of and over the next few years, we won trophies in the UK and in Europe and we had some fantastic days.

Goal Click Stephen Hunt 20230104

In August 2010, Football Is More - an organisation in Switzerland that creates opportunities for disadvantaged and disabled people - invited Liverpool, Werder Bremen, and FC Basel to Zurich for a tournament for disabled footballers from across Europe. I flew to play with seven other Liverpool FC Foundation players.

The tournament was at the Heerenshurli Stadium in Zurich and we won a tense Final 2-1 against FC Basel. LFCTV filmed us during the five days we were preparing and playing in the tournament. It was a fantastic feeling winning a European trophy in Switzerland. There were massive celebrations. I was quite pleased with helping the team win a trophy and scoring five goals in the tournament. 

When we got back to Liverpool the team was invited to go onto the pitch at Anfield with the trophy at half time which was a fantastic moment for all the players and coaching staff.

The Liverpool County FA created the Day Centre League in 2013, providing competitive football for the community and in 2015, I started coaching FC PHAB. Over the next five years we were successful and won the Day Centre League and Cup. 

During the pandemic, there was no football but this year we've resumed playing and we're looking to create a pan-disability team to play in the Merseyside Ability Counts league and in other tournaments.

With the photos, I tried to capture the players and coaches of disability football in Merseyside and show what happens at LFC Foundation, FC PHAB, Liverpool Transplant team, Liverpool County FA and the Day Centre league.

LFC Foundation and FC PHAB have had a massive impact, giving me opportunities to play in the Ability Counts league, tournaments, friendlies and to work with other disabled people and organisations. I've been able to develop as a player and coach over the years and I've travelled all over the country and Europe.

Goal Click Stephen Hunt 20230104

I'd like to keep playing as long as I can and win trophies for the Liverpool FC Foundation. I also want to develop my football coaching skills and encourage more disabled people to get involved with football and have a career in the game. 

There's still a long way to go with the development of disability football in this country. I'm very happy about the recent achievements of the England Women's team this summer, and I'd like to also see disability football at the same level with a national league, TV coverage, and sponsorship. 

I'd also like to see academies for young disabled players within leading clubs with existing and new clubs becoming professional to see disabled people encouraged to get coaching badges and jobs in football so we can create a legacy for generations to come.

I'd encourage any disabled person to get involved and aim for a career in football.  There's no better feeling then playing in a league for your club and there are plenty of opportunities out there now. 

For me, the best parts about football are making friends, working with organisations like the FA, and the club you support - which in my case is Liverpool FC. 

We can all inspire future generations to make the game even stronger.

Goal Click Stephen Hunt 20230104

Disability Football: Find Out More