Friday 31 January 2014
Five blind footballers with The Albion Foundation are in the middle of a 86-mile walk to raise funds for West Bromwich Albion’s charitable arm.
Simon Hill, Muhammad Ibraheem Iqbal, Ian McNamara, Shammi Ral, and Darren Harris, who play for the Foundation’s B1 blind football team, set off on Tuesday 28 January from Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC, to The Hawthorns, with the aim of arriving at West Brom’s home stadium in time for the Barclays Premier League match between West Brom and Liverpool that day.
"Being an Albion Foundation football player has given me the opportunity to be part of a very special experience"
The match has been designated 'The Albion Foundation Day' when staff will be raising awareness of, and funds for, its work in the community. The five blind players, who will be accompanied by guides who are members of the Foundation's disability set-up, are aiming to raise £10,000 for the charity, which supports them and 10 other disability teams.
Before they headed off to Merseyside, four first-team players from West Brom, captain Chris Brunt, Craig Dawson, Matej Vydra and Luke Daniels, met the five and challenged them to a penalty shootout, which they took blindfolded.
"The Albion Foundation do some fantastic work," Brunt told the club website. "I've been here for a long time and I've been lucky enough to do a lot of work with them.
"You always get the chance to do something different and this is the first time I've had the pleasure of playing blind football. Not everyone gets the chance to observe the work they do but it's fantastic for the community."
After the match against Liverpool, the five walkers' shirts will be signed by the West Brom team and then auctioned to raise finds.
"We are very proud of our disability work and are recognised nationally as an example of good practice," The Albion Foundation's director, Rob Lake, who will also be a guide on the walk, said. "However, running disability teams is costly and we are always looking for ways to generate funds to maintain and increase our provision.
"Monies raised from the challenge and The Albion Foundation Day will make a huge difference and enable us to do more great work."
Harris, who lost his sight through bilateral blastoma (cancer of the eyes) at 15 months, admits the walk will be a "huge challenge" but is keen to promote the Foundation, whose support he has been grateful for.
"Being an Albion Foundation football player has given me the opportunity to play for England, travel, meet some fantastic people and be part of a very special experience," Harris said.
For more information on the challenge visit www.walkthealbionway.co.uk.
To donate to the challenge people in the UK can text WTAW14 to 70070 to donate £5 or click here.