"Not only football” – Nothing about us without us
Disabled Football Fans Club (KKN) is associated mainly with football. It is in a way justified as the Association was established at Oporowska Street (Stadium of Śląsk Wrocław Football Club). It was there, at the premises of WKS Śląsk Wrocław Football Club, that on 28th October 2008, during a press conference, an agreement bringing KKN into existence was signed. Then, only a handful of disabled fans appeared at the match. I remember those hidden glances of people who didn’t even say “hi” to each other. They didn’t know each other. Today such a situation seems to be unimaginable as disabled fans, members of KKN form an unusual network of relations based on trust and friendship.
A couple of things helped to build such strong, almost family bonds. The most important were the trips outside Wrocław. It is easier to open yourself to the others during long trips. When in 2009 together with Dolnośląski Advisory Institute or in fact its head Aleksandra Sus, to be precise, we were drafting an application to City Hall asking for financial support to the project called “Overcoming barriers”, I didn’t fully understand the notion of a “support group”. A year later, while implementing the second edition of the project, this time in cooperation with the Marshal Hall, I could write about a “support group” constantly.
What keeps us together went far beyond our common passion, beyond football. I dare to claim that nowadays a football match is more an alibi – both for the disabled fans and for their PA’s. Several dozens of people meet at the stadium bearing in mind that after the match somebody is going to ask “so, what are we doing next?” I went to my friend’s birthday a couple of months ago. Half of the guests were KKN members. Just before Christmas Eve we had to rent a separate restaurant room so that everybody could fit in at our pre – Christmas meeting. The phonebook in my telephone can be used as a support network as it’s full of disabled people with so many different experiences. And the conversations held during our away trips should be recorded to educate this Polish society which is still full of complexes and considers only stereotypes. There are still so many taboo topics when considering disabled people including sex, love, loyalty, betrayal, personal hygiene, catheters, suppositories, education, job or its lack and family.
The 2nd May was the 11th anniversary of my accident. It was supposed to be a sad day. However my colleagues organized a picnic at the riverbank of Oder river with speakers, DJ-ing equipment, a barbecue and a group of marvellous people. Isn’t that what it is all about? Whenever there are no matches played we try to be visible in other sport arenas; in the Orbita for women volleyball matches, at the Olympic Stadium for speedway matches. We need to spend time with each other, we need each other. When the Śląsk Wroclaw stadium was closed for supporters we had to stay at home. It was just after we managed to get to Lublin for a match in a group of 27 people. Fortunately, a onetime stadium closure is not able to ruin the process of our mobilization. We are strong, tuned and we survived worse situations than that in our lives. Paradoxically, our main asset is strength and motivating each other as we face further challenges. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is our Disabled Football Fans Club.
The club’s structure is created not only by disabled people. A lot of people from different organisations and environments are supporting us. Thanks to that we can evolve and broaden our horizons. A group of nearly 100 people have started knocking on many doors and the slogan “Nothing about us without us” is becoming more and more popular in our members’ mouths. Let people who have to deal with absurd problems every single day speak about them loud and clear.
Finally, I would like to add a word of thank you to those who play a key role and are at the foundations of our work. Our carers, assistants, friends - without you KKN would not exist. Thank you for being with us. Also, I would like to thank organizations that together with us are breaking barriers, such as Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFE). The cooperation has already brought many benefits, so many that it would be difficult to list them all. Its value may therefore be measured by constantly increasing number of disabled people in European football stadiums. This is the best motivation to continue and strengthen our cooperation. We hope that more and more disabled supporters associations will be joining us and that the many barriers that still exist will not stop their passion to football.
Post Scriptum – We have released a “Not only football” photo section on our website http://www.kkn.wroclaw.pl/foto22nietylkofutbol.html. It shows how our Disabled Supporters Club is functioning beyond the football scope. You’re more than welcome to take a look.