Matt Crossen: Disability programme creates unbelievable opportunities

By Mark Orlovac 2 Oct 2023
Matt Crossen - England CP Captain

England Cerebral Palsy football captain sees how the disability provision delivered by Premier League Kicks is having an impact on young people

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How Premier League Disability Football Festivals make a difference

Young people from across the north of England travelled to Burnley in the summer to celebrate inclusion and accessibility at a Premier League Disability Football Festival.

One of the special guests watching the action was England Cerebral Palsy football captain and Richard Whitehead Foundation ambassador, Matt Crossen.

Crossen was a promising semi-pro footballer when in 2013, he had a stroke that turned his life upside down.

He has lived with cerebral palsy ever since and has harnessed his love of the game to reach the pinnacle of para football, playing in the 2016 Paralympics and captaining his country to the final of the International Federation of Cerebral Palsy Football European Championships this summer.

Here's what being a part of the Premier League Disability Football Festival meant to him.

"Ten years ago, there was never anything about cerebral palsy football or disability sports. Whatever the disability, whatever the discipline was in the sport, I never knew a thing about it.

"Fast forward to now, it's night and day.

"It's unbelievable to see these opportunities. For any kids on the on the rise now, there are always para clubs just around the corner.

"To see the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool here is massive. To be in a tournament with them, you can't put into words what it means for young people.

"Professional clubs are bringing in inclusion and I've spoken to many Premier League clubs who have said disability football is on the rise.

Premier League Disability Festival, Everton and Man City

"If you have teams like Man City, Man Utd and Liverpool involved, it's harder to miss and that's what we want.

"I always wanted to play football again after my stroke but I was worried that I'd have to stop because of my disability.

"It took a lot of hard work and me wanting to prove wrong all the people who said I couldn't do it.

"Kids just want to play football. They'll go through times where they are worrying and feel like they're not good enough but they are more than good enough.

"Disability doesn't mean that you've got nothing. You've got ability, you've just got to harness it.

"The only disability you can have is a bad attitude and what I've seen across all the teams at the festival, there's no-one with a bad attitude.

Premier League Disability Festival, Preston

"When the kids get out on the pitch and show their ability, they forget about the barriers that they may have faced previously, they just enjoy themselves. That's massive.

"I spoke with a few of the players and I told them how I got through it. They’ll need a bit of perseverance, patience and it will come down to whatever they want to achieve.

"I'm nothing special. I was just fortunate to be picked to captain England but it doesn't mean that I'm anything different to any of the players here today.

"A disability is not anything to hide or to be worried about, because these young people prove it can be done.

"Days like the disability football festival are special, it's inspiring and fantastic to watch, I love being a part of these days and I'm privileged to be here."

The Premier League Disability Football Festivals are a celebration of how Premier League Kicks, Premier League Inspires and Premier League Primary Stars connect young people aged from five to 18 with football, providing positive opportunities to help them to reach their potential.

Also in this series

Part 1: Premier League Disability Football Festival celebrates inclusivity
Part 2: How PL Disability Football Festivals make a difference
Part 3: Rosie's story: Liverpool helped me with my anxiety
Part 4: Declan's story: PL Kicks made me feel better about myself
Part 6: Elliott's story: Representing Burnley is a great experience

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