,s Rut­ter Rio glory bid

Rut­ter talks to Jack JOE NEL­SON for the and am­bi­tions about his hopes in Rio this month… Par­a­lympic Games

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - PARALYMPICS -

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

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