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How Saints gave Ben a future in sport

5 Apr 2018
Southampton, Ben's story

Eight-year-old with congenital glaucoma can fulfil dreams of being a footballer thanks to Saints Foundation and PL/BT Disability Fund

"Every Sunday I get excited about it, I feel great. I want to be a footballer."

Eight-year-old Ben loves nothing more than playing football every weekend.

But finding a place to play had proved difficult for him and his family. 

Ben has congenital glaucoma, a rare condition among children where the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, becomes damaged. This restricted Ben's vision.

"He didn't have any opportunities with normal football clubs," says Ben's mum, Sarah. "It's just so difficult for a child who's got an impairment."

But football sessions run by the Saints Foundation and the PL/BT Disability programme gave Ben the chance to fulfil his dream.

Every weekend he attends the Regional Talent Hub at Southampton's training ground, where children aged 6-16 with cerebral palsy, hearing impairments or are partially sighted, can enjoy elite coaching sessions. 

Saints Together: Ben's story

The aim is to progress them on to national disability football pathways.

"For Ben to come to sessions like this is absolutely amazing," Sarah says.

"I so admire Saints Foundation ... this has opened up football to Ben, who wouldn't necessarily have been able to access it through mainstream pathways.

"For my husband and me, this Talent Hub has been a lifesaver because we know that Ben can have a future in sport."

Ben recently met champion sprinter Iwan Thomas, a Saints Foundation ambassador, and showed him how he has been helped by the programme.

"Saints Foundation are giving kids confidence and sometimes that's all you need in life," Thomas says. "Having someone to believe in you, and tell you you're talented.

"All it takes is one person saying, 'Do you know what? You're good, but you could be better if you choose the right path.

"Sometimes that's all you need in life is someone to believe in you and make you think, 'Yeah, I have got a bit of talent.' " 

Ben's story is part of the Saints Together campaign, which highlights the connection between the club, the Foundation and the community.

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