‘The thought of going onto the pitch would make me cry’
scheme, which received funding to help it set up four new disability teams.
Eliza and her teammates have entered the Female Football Series, a pan-disability programme organised by the County FA network. But to start with it wasn’t easy for the teenager, who joined Ability Counts in January 2017.
“I’d stand on the sidelines in the cold, wanting to play, but not being able to,” she recalls. “Even the thought of going onto the pitch would make me cry. It’s like someone telling you to jump off a cliff, land on your feet and not have injuries – it just felt impossible to do.”
But as Eliza watched the other players, she realised there were people in the team she could relate to. “I was always thinking, ‘ Will they accept me for who I am?’ But I saw they were being weird in the best way, like me,” she says. “And I finally got up the courage to play.” With the help of head coach Nigel and the rest of the Ability Counts team, she started to play more regularly, and her talent shone through. Now Eliza plays for the mainstream women’s team Solihull Sporting FC, and credits Nigel and his team for her success.
“He gave me the confidence to go for mainstream football,” she says. “From the start, he saw something in me, and even made me captain of the under16s. It was what I needed to push me to do it.”
Ability Counts is just one of the
It’s saved my life – and shows how talented kids with needs can play, no matter their disability