,s Rutter Rio glory bid
Rutter talks to Jack JOE NELSON for the and ambitions about his hopes in Rio this month… Paralympic Games
GREAT Britain’s Cerebral Palsy Football captain Jack Rutter is confident his side can overcome the odds and leave a “lasting legacy” at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
The 25-year-old will lead out the GB team at Rio as they aim to contend for a podium position and become the “best GB Cerebral Palsy team there has ever been”.
However, a significant challenge lies ahead for the Brits, as they are just one of three qualified nations not to have been funded full-time in their preparations for the Games, along with the USA and the Republic of Ireland.
Rio 2016 is also more than likely going to be this set of players’ last Paralympics, as the sport has been withdrawn from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games after appearing in every summer Paralympics since New York’s 1984 Games.
Therefore, Rutter is keen to hold nothing back going into the showpiece event.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity,” he said,“and I believe as both the skipper of the team, and as someone who’s been part of the set-up over the past three to four years, we’ve got a great chance of medalling in Rio if we can play to our potential.”
The man from Gloucestershire was not born with Cerebral Palsy, as many of his team-mates were, but qualified to play for the national side after being assaulted on a night out with friends, during a time where he was playing as a second year scholar for Birmingham City FC.
The damage sustained left him deaf in his right ear and he sustained brain damage.
“I don’t remember anything from the night,” he said.“All I’ve been told is that it was a normal night out with friends, and then at the end of the night I went over to speak to an old friend and unfortunately there was a lad there who punched me in the back of the head. I didn’t know who he was or his name.”
After a lengthy recovery, the 2015 Cerebral Palsy Football World Championships, held at England’s training centre, St George’s Park, provided the perfect opportunity for himself and his side to show how far they’ve come, and how the sport is not to be taken lightly.
“It was such a highlight to see a packed stand of 1,000 coming to watch us play and qualify for Rio,” he said. (The WC’s also served as the qualification process for Rio) “My highlight on a personal level was my mum seeing me play – she hadn’t watched me since Birmingham City.
“I didn’t let her watch me play for six years, as I couldn’t do what I used to be able to, but I finally said ‘you can watch me in the World Championships’.When I bent in that goal against the Republic of Ireland and the roar of the crowd, that was probably one of the best moments of my life.”
Rutter starred in the World Championships, being named in the ‘Team of the Tournament’, which consisted of four Russian players, as they charged to the championship, defeating an impressive Ukrainian side 1-0 in the final.
Russia knocked England out of the tournament in a 5-0 quarter-final romp, which Rutter has highlighted as a prime example of how an injection of cash into a team can greatly improve their quality. “They’re very well-funded,” he said.“They get a lot of money pumped into their sport.
“They’ve got a great network to pick from, full-time training and get paid, so it’s obviously tough to compete with them.”
The past two tournaments have seen England knocked out by Russia and Ukraine, the two highest-ranked nations in the sport, and Rutter is adamant that with a little extra funding the team – boosted by players from across the British isles for the Olympics – can break the top two’s resistance and become the dominant force in CP Football.
Their task should be a little bit easier now as Russia will not be taking part in Rio after losing