Powerchair football puts a new spin on the ‘beautiful game’
Dave Howard fell in love with football as a child and his passion for the ‘beautiful game’ has never faltered. Like every other football fan his attention will be focused on Qatar in the coming weeks when the FIFA World Cup kicks off on 20th November, 2022.
Dave’s own football journey has not been easy. He said, “I was a goalkeeper with a youth team until I was about 14. Then I was diagnosed and had to give up.”
He’s referring to muscular dystrophy, a group of diseases causing muscle weakness and decreasing mobility over time.
Hanging up his boots as a teenager was, he admits, “really hard”. But Dave, now 38, likes to look forward not back. He said, “Although I’m quite visibly disabled, I’ve always managed to find ways to do stuff. I’m quite strong mentally; I try to think about what I can do next rather than what I can’t do.”
In his 20s, he coached a couple of local football teams and began playing snooker and darts as his mobility gradually declined.
Now, he’s back playing football. As a member of National Lottery-supported Farnham Powerchair Football Club, Dave has reconnected with his favourite sport. His team played its first match recently and although they lost six-nil, the smiles on the players’ faces at full-time meant a lot more than the scoreline.
He said, “It’s great to be able to play a bit of competitive football – to go out and give it a go.”
Powerchair Football, for the uninitiated, is a 4-a-side game using specially adapted electric wheelchairs. Players pass or shoot by pushing or flicking an oversized ball with the surfaces of their powerchair. It’s fast (the chairs are roughly twice as fast as conventional electric wheelchairs) and controlling the ball requires a great deal of skill.
Sue Barnley, secretary of Farnham Powerchair Football Club, said National Lottery funding had enabled it to set up secure storage facilities for its powerchairs at the school hall where training takes place. Prior to that, Sue and her husband had to use a van to transport the heavy, valuable chairs to and from the venue.
She said, “The National Lottery funding has been massively important. Without it the club wouldn’t be happening weekly.”
Powerchair Football can be played at a national level and the Powerchair Football World Cup will be held in Australia in 2023. In the meantime, Dave can’t wait for the action to start in the FIFA World Cup.
He said, “I’ll definitely be watching the games, that’s for sure. I’m wondering how hot it will be out there. That might favour certain teams.”
Dave is the captain of his Powerchair Football team, but laughs at suggestions he’s the squad’s ‘Harry Kane’. He said, “I’m sort of running the show, but the score isn’t important. The main thing is we’re all smiling at the end.”
10th November 2022
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