Interview with deaf British footballer Claire Stancliffe: “They don’t support deaf athletes. That is not equality.”
In the past few weeks sports fans in this country have witnessed feats by those whose lives have been forced down a path others could barely imagine. The heroes of the Paralympic Games were given one final farewell at the closing ceremony last Sunday and joined their Olympic companions at a victory parade the following day to maintain the feel good factor currently sweeping the nation.
However, in a little more than seven days time, one sport that could potentially bring home more medals, could have its hopes dashed a year before competing.
Claire Stancliffe plays for Great Britain’s Women’s Deaf Football team and along with her team-mates she is hoping to raise enough money to feature at next year’s Deaflympics in Bulgaria.
In 2008 UK Sport, the nation’s high performance sports agency which invests in the Olympics and Paralympics, declared that the Deaflympics would not join the Olympics and Paralympics in its seven-year funding plan. This decision has left Britain’s Women’s Deaf Football team in a difficult position. Unless they raise £15,000, they risk missing out on a tournament that could be vital to the promotion of Deaf Football in this country. They have raised some of the amount but need to raise the remainder by September 21st.
“I couldn’t even describe how disappointed we would be, heartbroken and distraught springs to mind,” explains Claire. “So many people and the government talk about equality but the fact is they don’t support deaf athletes. That is not equality.”
She goes on to say: “It [promotion] could change deaf football for the better. People will become more aware, more players would come through the systems and I am sure there will be more support. But it shouldn’t be that way. We should have support now.”
The battle against the clock, in the hopes of competing at a prestigious event, doesn’t fit in with the summer of sport that Britain has just enjoyed. Having declared ourselves proud of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and wished it luck in Rio, the thought of one of Britain’s medal prospects for the Deaflympics not receiving any official support would shock many.
The feeling of being outsiders within your own country is one that is quickly setting in for Britain’s deaf women footballers, who have even been rebuffed by Adidas when requesting help with their team wear. Receiving little or no support from any official governing bodies highlights the problems facing Claire and her team-mates.
But the repercussions of not being able to play next year in Bulgaria could be even more fatal. “If we can’t go we would get fined, which would be the deposit each player has paid up to this point, so basically the players who are paying to represent their country would effectively be paying a massive fine. It could potentially destroy the team.”
Whilst speaking to Claire there remains a positive attitude that the team can raise the money needed to feature in Bulgaria next year. It’s an attribute that has to be admired in the face of many obstacles preventing them from achieving their dream. Asked what she wanted from the relevant governing bodies, Claire’s response is one that draws light on the problems that still remain. “I just wish they would treat us equally to the Olympians.”Tagged in: deaf, deaf women's football, football, games, London 2012, olympics, paralympics, team gb
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