The Great Britain Women’s Deaf Football Team came within an ace of medal placings at the 2009 Deaflympics in Taipei, Taiwan, this summer, only to be beaten into fourth by a controversial Russian goal.
Undeterred, the team’s coach/manager George McGowan told LOCAL NEWS columnist, Colin Mackie, about the highlights and calls on the Government to get behind our country’s deaf athletes in time for the 2013 Deaflympics in Greece.
How was your team’s trip to Taipei ?
‘The Deaflympics will be something I will never forget. The team and I really enjoyed the experience. I thought it went really well, and the set-up was like … wow!.
‘The girls’ football team did me proud. We came fourth, but I must remind people that this team is a young team that bonded well, and the America women – the gold medallists – said we were the hardest team they played.’
What was it like on your arrival ?
‘There was a massive welcome when we landed, and many photos were taken as if we were famous – everyone felt strange as we did not expect that. Travelling was tiring, but I would travel the world twice to get to the Deaflympics. It was my first and will not be my last.’
Did signing with different nationalities cause any problems?
‘The language was good for me as I got to see what other signs there were, but we managed to communicate well. You would not get that in the hearing world.’
What was the atmosphere like ?
‘It was great and, if you take a look at the Deaflympics website or the many clips on YouTube and SignTube, you’ll see an unforgettable sporting event. I just wish we got a lot of funding by the government to develop deaf sports in UK.
It was well organised by Taiwan, and was run by hearing people with advice from the Deaf community. The biggest disappointment was that all the hearing volunteers could not sign, but there were 10,000 of them!’
Knowing the GB team had to raise funds themselves to get there, did other countries have problems with funding for the Deaflympics?
‘The impression I got was that some countries got funding and others got paid for winning medals. For example, Russian teams winning a gold medal would be paid something like 100,000 euros. It saddens me that our government didn’t even fund us to get over there. That’s a shame really.’
How was the closing ceremony ?
‘I did not want it to end. It was good to see the British fans. They’d made a long trip to support us. They will not be forgotten by me or the rest of the GB squad.
‘At the closing ceremony, we were swapping kits with our competitors and there was Taiwanese food - a 13-course meal. I’m not too sure having the fans watching us eat was a good idea but I’m sure they loved the fireworks and waving the true blue, red-and-white Union flag.’
What plans have you for the 2013 games in Athens?
‘Good question. We will have a meeting to discuss the best way forward.’
Are there any closing comments you would like to add ?
‘I`d love to pass on a big thank you to all those people who helped with funding; the sponsors of all sports represented in the GB Squad. Without their support, we would not have got to Taipei. Also most of the fans could not get tickets for the opening and closing ceremony. They gave so much of their time – going all the way there to support all the athletes, pulling money out of their own pockets that they deserve a very special thank you, too.’
Says Colin: ‘Any possible sponsors interested in helping Britain’s deaf athletes get to the 2013 Deaflympics in Athens can contact me on: email@example.com
I will pass details to George.’
Futher information on: www.deaflympics.com