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Published 21 September 2023 6 min read
England Para Teams

Henry Bowe fulfilling grassroots coach’s prediction

Written by:

Frank Smith

England Deaf Men defender discusses his journey ahead of his first World Deaf Football Championships

There will be grassroots coaches across the country who every now and then will come across a special young player who they believe has the potential to one day represent their country at a major tournament. And in the case of Chellaston Boys FC and Henry Bowe, the coach was right.

Bowe is one of 20 players selected by England Deaf Men for the World Deaf Football Championships which starts this week.

It’s fair to say the tournament in Malaysia is a long way from the seaside town of Skegness where it all started for Bowe – literally and metaphorically.

“I can’t remember exactly when I fell in love with football but my parents tell stories about how I always used to love playing football,” Bowe said.

“We used to go to Skegness when I was younger and I would watch the groups of boys playing football and would want to join in. I was quite a shy guy so my mum would have to go and ask if her son could play and they would always say I was more than welcome.

“So I would play with them but when the ball was passed to me, I would pick the ball up so from that moment, my Mum told my Dad ‘Henry wants to play football’ so they took me to JJB.”

The England Deaf Men's squad flew out to Malaysia this week ahead of the World Deaf Football Championships
The England Deaf Men's squad flew out to Malaysia this week ahead of the World Deaf Football Championships

From the age of five, every Sunday Bowe would attend the Derby County Community Trust-led sessions at JJB.

And two years later, Bowe’s family decided to enrol him at grassroots club Chellaston Boys FC and he made an immediate impact.

Bowe explained: “My first memory of [competitive] football would be that first game for Chellaston Boys. In the first game, I played up front and I scored three goals, so I obviously made a good first impression!

“I did really well that season and halfway through the season I got scouted by Nottingham Forest and I went to play for them.

“I was really impressed with myself, being a deaf child and going to play for them.

“Communication was quite difficult and my mum used to be the interpreter so I have always appreciated what my Mum did for me when I was younger. Every Tuesday night, in the freezing cold, she would be sat next to the coach and would be signing and interpreting for me.”

Bowe’s talent led to him being invited to join the England Deaf pathway at the age of 14, when the focus was still primarily on futsal rather than the eleven-a-side game.

He progressed to the Under-21 side and by the age of 16 had already trained with the senior England Deaf Futsal team, before a dislocated knee set him back temporarily.

The defender is relishing the chance to represent his country in the coming weeks
The defender is relishing the chance to represent his country in the coming weeks

The switch to eleven-a-side football was to follow and once again Bowe progressed to the Para Lions’ development side before reaching the senior England team.

Now 23, Bowe is set to represent England at the World Deaf Football Championships for the first time – something which won’t come as a surprise to his old coach at Chellaston Boys FC.

“I am really excited to be playing in my first World Cup. I am ready to give everything for my country,” the Farsley Celtic defender said.

“I am really proud to be chosen to represent England at a World Championship.

“When I was younger and playing for Chellaston Boys, I remember the manager wrote little biographies for each of the players because we were playing in a final and in mine he said he thought I had the potential to play for the England Deaf team in the future.

“And I have done it. I have proved it.”

England Deaf Men will begin their World Deaf Football Championships campaign on Saturday against Australia, with kick-off at 1.30pm BST.

There will then be group games against Nigeria on Monday (9.30am BST) and Gabon on Wednesday (1.30pm), with the Para Lions hoping to progress to the knockout stages and hopefully go all the way.

“We have a lovely group, a really good manager and staff, and I am really looking forward to it,” Bowe said.

“Camp has been going well and all the lads are prepared to show what England are all about.”

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