Rebecca’s off the bench and kicking goals at Barton Inclusive FC
As a primary school student Rebecca longed to play football with the other students, but seldom got the chance.
The 20-year-old said, “I wanted to join my school football team but they wouldn’t let me. As I got older, it felt like I was being left out because of all my disabilities.”
Rebecca, who is studying criminology and law at the Open University, lives with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. She said, “It causes hypermobility – so my joints dislocate easily – as well as feeding problems, so I use a feeding tube. I also have autism, which affects my social skills and ability to make friends.”
After the Lionesses won the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022, Rebecca decided she wasn’t going to take no for an answer any longer. She said, “I went on to the England Football website and found Barton Inclusive FC, in Barton upon Humber, which welcomes players who are neurodiverse or have physical difficulties.
Rebecca admits she had to summon all her courage on her visit to the club. She said, “I was really scared, but I don’t think I threw up. I didn’t talk to anyone at all.”
Barton Inclusive FC is just one of the hundreds of grassroots football clubs across the UK to have benefitted from funding made possible by National Lottery players. Thanks to them, more than £50Million has been invested in women’s football over the past 10 years.
Rebecca stuck with it. She said, “I got quite upset at the first couple of sessions because I’d get overwhelmed. Now, I come along and don’t get upset and have a great time.
“Everyone on the team knows about my disabilities and when we play friendlies our coach tells the other team not to tackle me quite so harshly. When I get upset, one person will come over to me rather than everyone coming over. Everyone checks in with me when we’re going to a match and asks what needs to be put in place to help me. It’s the one hour each week when I feel like everyone else and I’m included.”
Barton Inclusive FC has become like a “second family” to Rebecca and it’s not just her ball skills that have improved. She said, “My confidence has improved and everyone who knows me says my social skills have come on massively.”
There’s still work to be done, however. Rebecca wants to get better at shouting out other players' names and tackling opposing players.
Her love of the game is set to deepen further during the FIFA Women’s World Cup. She said, “I’ve already got the sticker book and the trading cards. And I’ve blocked out all of July and August to watch the matches.”
25th July 2023
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