England's Josh Pugh using his platform to raise awareness of Para football
Para Lions' partially-sighted player and popular comedian reflects on his journey to international football and prospect of a World Cup on home soil
PARA FOOTBALL: FIND OUT MORE
His day job may revolve around humour, but there can be no doubting how seriously Josh Pugh takes representing his country.
A stand-up comedian who has worked with Ricky Gervais, Pugh was diagnosed with ocular albinism and nystagmus as a child, making playing football outside incredibly difficult due to lack of pigmentation in his eyes.
That made Pugh stop playing football as he struggled with the size of the pitch, and brief spells in rugby, athletics and boxing did not last too long either.
But, when he had all but given up hope, his friend introduced him to partially-sighted Futsal, and he hasn't looked back since.
“I found partially-sighted football through my friend John, who lives about 20 minutes from me,” said Pugh.
“I met him at college, he kind of introduced me to it. I played as a kid, then I dropped out of football when it went to eleven-a-side; I found it a bit too difficult to really do myself justice in terms of playing on the big pitch.
“I played rugby for a bit, I found rugby easier, and I was into other sports, athletics and stuff. I even tried boxing as a partial, which is only going to end one way.
“And then I found Futsal, and I found that so much easier to play indoors on a smaller court and I just fell in love with playing again.
“I managed to get involved with England, and then I didn't get selected for the first few tournaments, but stuck at it, and then I've been in the squad for about eleven years now and I’m vice-captain, so I’m very, very proud of that.
“Very few people get to do it, and it's just a real privilege, but it's really hard work and is something that obviously doesn't happen by accident, but it’s such an honour.”
He said: “I think football is for everyone, and I think when I was a kid, especially when it went to eleven-a-side, I felt like that was it.
“There's nothing for me now, my days of playing football are over, which as a 12-year-old kid is an insane thing to think.
“So our job as England players is really to raise awareness, which in turn creates opportunities for people, teenagers with visual impairments or whatever their situation is to have opportunities to play football.
“Whether it's for England, whether it's just with their mates, it's for everyone. It's a great way of being fit and making friends. So yeah, it's very important to keep on raising awareness.”
Partially-sighted football explained
Find out more about the format of t6he game played by Josh and his teammates
“When I joined the squad, we couldn't get out of the groups in tournaments,” said Pugh.
“Since then we've got two World Cup finals, how many people can say they've played in two World Cup finals?
“They are great occasions and hopefully I’ll get to play in a few more and win one or two would be great.
“That would be a great opportunity for family and friends to come and watch and showcase the sport and hopefully get more people involved.”