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Published 19 March 2024 6 min read
England Para Teams

‘We want people to see it and think maybe I can play disability football’

Written by:

Frank Smith

England Para team players hoping kit launch can help inspire those with a disability to take up football

The term role model is used regularly across sport but for our Para players, England’s kit launch provides a genuine opportunity to inspire a new generation of children and open their eyes to a world of football they may not even know exists.

On Monday we launched England’s new home and away kits which will be used by our men’s, women’s and Para teams in 2024.

With all of our teams using the same designs this year, the kit launch provided us with the chance to introduce even more supporters to some of the incredible athletes who represent our Para teams.

Three Lions captain Harry Kane was joined in the lead image by his Powerchair team equivalent Jon Bolding, while stars like Declan Rice and Bukayo Saka line up alongside Para team counterparts, England Cerebral Palsy men’s Mason Dunbar and Azeem Amir of our Blind men’s side.

Household names Beth Mead and Lauren James stand side-by-side with Deaf women’s captain Zara Musker and England Blind women’s Lucja Wyrwantowicz, as world-class duo Mary Earps and England CP men’s Giles Moore don the new goalkeeper jersey.

England men's, women's and para team players as part of our kit launch
England men's, women's and para team players as part of our kit launch

Bolding is widely recognised as one of the best powerchair footballers on the planet and was a penalty shootout away from guiding England to the 2023 FIPFA Powerchair Football World Cup in October.

He said: “This level of exposure can really help our sport and the FA has helped grow powerchair football in recent years.

“When the FA and England are putting things out on their channels about disability football, it reaches children and adults with a disability who maybe don’t know these impairment-specific sports exist, and it might give them a new lease of life they didn’t realise they had, which is what powerchair football did for me when I was younger.

“Powerchair football changed my life and without it, I would not have had all the wonderful experiences I have had so hopefully people will be introduced to disability sport through this kit launch and their lives can be changed for the better just like mine was.”

18 Mar 2024 8:18

'Wow I Have No Words'

England players get their first look at the new home and away kits

At the FA we strongly believe Football is For All and 2024 marks the third year of our landmark Football Your Way strategy, which strives to develop, improve and raise awareness of Disability Football in England.

The plan is the first of its kind and covers seven key areas (more here), with one of those being to provide world-class coaching and support services for our Para teams as they chase podium places.

In 2023, four of our England para teams medalled at World or European championships, with one of those being our Partially Sighted men’s team.

England Partially Sighted star Adam Lione in the new home shirt
England Partially Sighted star Adam Lione in the new home shirt

Their striker Adam Lione scored a hat-trick in the IBSA World Championship final as England PS lost to Ukraine courtesy of a goal with just 22 seconds of extra-time remaining.

Lione said: “I had no idea the England Partially Sighted team existed until I got my England trial 14 years ago and whilst I hope we've come quite a long way since then, it is great to have all these disability football role models reaching a wider audience.

“Even if it is just introducing people to someone like England Blind international Azeem Amir on Instagram so they can see how well he copes with his day-to-day life, that in itself can help people.

“I’m hoping people will see us as part of the kit launch and if they didn't realise there is an England Partially Sighted team or an England Powerchair team, it will give them the belief to give it a try.

“We want people to see the campaign and think ‘Maybe I can play disability football’ or ‘I can push myself’ and know there is a place for everyone to feel included in football.”

England Deaf defender Matt Oaten in our new away jersey
England Deaf defender Matt Oaten in our new away jersey

England’s para football programme continues to grow each year, as does the FA Disability Cup, with the two-day finals at St. George’s Park now broadcast on TNT Sport.

With awareness of the respective impairment-specific teams growing, the players are increasingly reaching new audiences and, crucially, football-loving children across the country.

England Deaf men’s defender Matt Oaten said: “Growing up, I didn’t really have deaf football role models but once I started deaf football with Fulham, I soon had the dream of wearing the England shirt.

“There is no better feeling than wearing that shirt and representing your country – I never take it for granted.

“And being involved with things like this kit launch is amazing because it will help us reach deaf children and those with other disabilities who maybe don’t have those role models yet.

“The England Deaf men’s team are always trying to do everything we can to promote the sport and show deaf children they can achieve anything and overcome those barriers.

“Receiving messages from kids' parents talking about how you have inspired them is such a special and amazing feeling.

“It is great that kids with a disability have these role models to look up to now and I try my best to be someone that the next generation can look up to and be an example of something they can work towards.”

You can learn more about our new kits here and hear the thoughts of some of our England men’s and women’s team players here.

You can find disability football in your area via the below button and if you want to ensure your club is as inclusive as possible, you can access our disability toolkit and disability training for clubs here.

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