'It is for the little girls and young boys that are watching'
England Deaf Women Futsal squad
England Deaf Women Futsal captain Zara Musker previews the World Deaf Futsal Championships in Brazil and talks about wanting to inspire the next generation of Para Lions
Zara Musker may be heading to Brazil in search of World Championship gold but the England Deaf Women Futsal captain is hoping their performances will ultimately lead to her losing her place in the team.
Musker is one of nine players selected in the England Deaf Women squad for the World Deaf Futsal Championships in Brazil, which starts on Friday and runs until November 19.
There Chris Day’s side will face the other five teams competing in Sao Paulo during the group stage before the top two battle it out in the final, third and fourth compete in the bronze medal match and the other two sides face each other in a rankings fixture.
England head to Sao Paulo as the reigning European champions after their victory in October 2022 and Musker said: “It was the first time in history we had won European gold and in truth, it felt like a long time coming.
“I can't even describe the feeling. A lot of the things that I do within this team and on that court now aren't for me anymore. It is for the little girls and young boys that are watching.
“I want them to take my spot. I want them to come and take me out of the team – within reason – because we need that pathway to continue.”
Musker started playing football around the age of four ‘with about 20 lads from the estate and then just me’ in Ribble Valley, Blackburn.
After joining Accrington Stanley at seven and then Burnley a year later, she ended up at Blackburn Rovers’ centre of excellence at 11 and stayed there until the under-17s, before moving on to the development squad for WSL side Everton.
A full scholarship took her to the United States but a serious injury ruled her out for a year and a half and upon returning to the UK, Musker decided against pursuing a full-time career in professional football but continued to play for England Deaf Women.
When Musker was first asked to come and train with the England Deaf Women Futsal side at the age of 13, she had never even played the shorter format of the game and initially found it hard to adapt into the squad, with the teenager not knowing sign language and having grown up ‘in the hearing world’.
But things changed for her when she was allowed to compete in competitions after turning 16 and was part of the England Deaf Women Futsal side who claimed bronze at the European Championships in 2014 – a moment she said changed her life forever.
More major competitions were to follow and in 2022 Musker was a key part of the team who became the European Deaf Futsal champions.
Personal accolades were to follow, with Musker named one of the top five players in the continent off the back of her performances and receiving the Deaf Sports Personality of the Year award for 2022, but she was quick to turn the focus back on her team-mates.
She said: “Being named one of the top five players in Europe was massive for me and to be honest it felt like a long time coming because I had put a lot of effort in, I've constantly played and trained – training twice a day while sometimes trying to work full-time – so it was massive.
“But I wouldn't have been able to do it without the team. There's five of us on the court and when I got that award, it was not down to just me, it was because of every single person in that team.”
Now England Deaf Women Futsal are hoping to transfer that level of performance onto the world stage out in Sao Paolo.
The Para Lions are already in Brazil ahead of their first game against Japan on Friday (see the group fixtures below) and Musker said: “We go there to win gold. That's it.
“Whatever will be, will be but at the end of the day, what we're doing here with the FA, coming to camps regularly, training regularly away from camps while working full time, we wouldn't be doing it justice if we didn't go out there and try to win gold.”
You can read about Musker’s journey from grassroots football to becoming an England international by clicking here or via the picture below.