Blind Aylesbury midfielder triumphs at FA Disability Cup Final

Kieran helped his side triumph on penalties live on BT Sport.

Tuesday, 20th July 2021, 1:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th July 2021, 1:46 pm

Kieran Clarke, from Aylesbury was on the winning side in his first ever appearance at the Blind FA Disability Cup Final.

The gifted 20-year-old only started playing football regularly when he joined the Royal National College For The Blind (RNC) last September.

Now, just one year on, the blind man from Aylesbury, has an FA Cup winners medal and has been earmarked for an emerging talent pathway programme.

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Kieran Clarke, top right

Kieran was a starter in the RNC Hereford team which came through a tense penalty shoot out to see off Merseyside Blind in Sunday's final (July 18). The game was tied at 1-1 before the dreaded spot kicks.

Now categorised as B1 (completely blind), Kieran lost his eyesight aged five after a bad allergic reaction to penicillin.

Despite that, the Aylesbury man has always led a sporting lifestyle, before taking up football in-between lockdowns, he was an accomplished Judo stylist.

Kieran competed against fully-sighted boys in national Judo championships as a youngster.

BT Sport streamed the game live

Despite his love of sports and clear athletic gifts Kieran explained to the Bucks Herald that blind football wasn't on his radar that long ago. He said: "I wanted to go to college to gain life skills, learn more about how to use technology.

"I was looking towards doing sports courses, potentially looking at working in sports therapy, learning about sports massages. I still plan on going to university. I'd played football before a bit with mates, but there's only really so much football you can play with them, when you can't see."

While categorised as B1, Kieran can recognise colours and does have some fleeting memories from his early childhood, when he had full use of his eyes. Nonetheless taking on the sport presents major challenges.

Kieran described the biggest difficulties he faced adapting to blind football, adding: "You have to have good spatial awareness, at first it can be disorienting, learning what's around you, learning to gain confidence on the ball.

"They put up boards around the pitch so at times you're crashing into the boards. You have to build the confidence to run into challenges to go to places where you might get hit. But in doing that in winning the ball, that gives you confidence and belief. When you achieve that and you succeed on the football pitch, that translates into life outside of sport.

"It gives you the confidence to use that beliefe in any situation. That's why I think sport can be really important."

The final was broadcast live on BT Sport and took place at the FA's training complex at St George's Park in Burton, recently used by the England football team throughout Euro 2020.

It was the first time the competition was broadcast live in the UK. Kieran added: "Speaking to the guys who've been around for a while helped me understand the magnitude of the event.

"This was the biggest audience the event's had, it was really weird watching the game back, hearing the commentators say your name."

Kieran describes himself as an energetic midfielder, who likes being in the middle in 5-a-side competition. He says that one of the fun aspects of blind football is the one hand rule, which allows more physical contact then you'll see in conventional footy.

If Kieran stays on track we could see this FA Cup winner competing internationally for his country. Sunday represented his first major victory in the sport.