Disabled fans stories
We are always delighted to receive stories from disabled football fans across Europe.
Supporters often send us accounts of their experiences of attending football matches, and the unique power that football has of breaking down barriers. You can find a number of disabled fans stories available in the links below.
If you have a story that you would like to share with us, please feel free to send it, in any language, to email@example.com. It would be great if you could also send an accompanying picture for the website page.
'I go to the stadium now and I go as a Marseille fan, not as just a disabled person'
Jean Michel Russello
I became disabled aged 31 following an accident. I didn’t respond well to becoming disabled – I had depression and felt rejected by life.
It was my doctor who recommended that I may find refuge through sport.
I fell in love with Marseille back when my father first took me to attend a match 44 years ago. Since 2007 I have attended every match, along with my wife, son and other members of my family.
Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/jean-michel-russello
'CSKA lost that game, but those were still the most vivid emotions I had felt for many years'
Football has been with me since my childhood, but I got really captured by this game after UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal. I started to use a wheelchair in 2003 and since then have spent a few years at home. Almost all my friends turned away from me. It has been the most difficult period in my life, and the only joy was football and my team CSKA Moscow. My first visit to a stadium was in 2005. CSKA lost that game, but those were still the most vivid emotions I had felt for many years. The most memorable event happened last year, when our players became champions. Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/elena-popova
'We have become as important to our team as they are to us'
I am a member of the Vіrnі Levy disabled supporters association (DSA) from Lviv. We have been in existence for nearly six years and are not just another local fan group with a passion for football. It is something more - it is the lifestyle of mine and my friends. It is our life! Vіrnі Levy is a group of disabled people who are united by love of football and particularly our team, Karpaty Lviv. About six years ago, several of my friends and I decided to watch our favourite team live. With the help of the Karpaty NGO, we were able to organise it. We then had the idea to create our own DSA. We just had a passion for football and a great desire to realise our dream. Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/yury-kovalevsky
'I can’t imagine my life without live football'
I have loved football ever since I was a child, when I would often attend matches with my father. We are fans of Karpaty Lviv in Ukraine. After I had left school I wanted to carry on watching live football. This was not always easy, as disabled people can face a lot of obstacles at some stadiums. My father had died and so wasn’t there to accompany me. Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/taras-kontsevich
'Attending that match is one of my greatest ever memories!'
I first became a football fan around the time of the 1982 FIFA World Cup, which took place in Spain. At the time I was serving in the army and working for the Kiev police, and so my favourite team is Dynamo Kiev. I love football and believe that all fans should be able to attend live matches. I hope that disabled fans in Sumy can work together and create a disabled supporters association. Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/oleg-gab
'My dream came true'
I want to share with you some stories about my football trip to the training base of FC Metalist Kharkiv, in the village of Vysokyj. I want to say a big thank you to Metalist Kharkiv. During 2013, I was able to visit different stadiums and cities of Ukraine as a Metalist supporter. But sometimes, some clubs do not have sufficient facilities for disabled people. It is very sad. I hope in the future this problem will be solved, and that all people will be able to attend live football matches! Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/olexiy-moskalenko
'It’s such a huge difference between watching football on TV and going to the stadium. It’s all about the atmosphere'
I’m a fan of FC Dynamo Kiev and the Ukrainian national team, but before UEFA EURO 2012 I had only watched football on television. My first time at a football match was at the new stadium in Kiev. That was amazing. I went to the match with a personal assistant, who helped me to climb the stairs. Unfortunately they don’t have rails which makes it quite difficult not only for a person like me, but for elderly people or small children. But I’m not complaining. The match was worth it. Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/kostyantyn-halak
'UEFA EURO 2012 was the beginning, not the end'
It was great to be able to do so much work in Lviv to make it more accessible for disabled people. Three matches took place at the new Arena Lviv stadium, and there was a lot of disabled supporters in attendance at each of them. This included wheelchair users, deaf and hard of hearing supporters, and blind and partially sighted supporters. All disabled supporters were provided with a parking pass along with their match tickets, enabling them to access a car park facility directly underneath the stadium. As an illustration of the number of disabled people attending matches, this car park was full throughout the matches we hosted. Volunteers were on hand to assist supporters however they could, including some that spoke in various European languages. There was a lot of work put in to ensure that the stadium was as accessible for disabled supporters as possible. In addition to the car parks, we also had lifts, accessible toilets and dedicated seats in the stadium. Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/yaroslav-hrybalskyy
'Nothing compares to being there live'
Football has always played a huge role in my life. When I was a child, I went to a specialist sports school, where I played competitive football for seven years. By the age of fourteen, I was training less but going to watch my team, Dynamo Kiev, with my friends every week. I also collected photographs of the team that I then put into albums. After I became disabled, football was almost left behind. I sometimes told myself that I still wanted to go and watch my team again, but I never acted on those words. Back in 2012, the NSC Olympiyskiy arena was reconstructed ahead of UEFA EURO 2012, where the final was played. In the past, Dynamo Kiev played their European matches at the stadium, and now we would be able to return home once again. Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/sergey-rozhentsov
'I will keep this unforgettable atmosphere for the rest of my life'
Oleksandr and Valeriy Haiday
My brother and I have been football fans for more than fourteen years. When we learned that Ukraine would host UEFA EURO 2012, it became our dream to get to this historic event. We were thrilled to get tickets for Ukraine v Sweden, which took place at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. When we were driving to Kiev, all of the cars around us had Ukrainian flags, and we were like in the blue and yellow sea. We felt like it was a great festival for Kiev and the whole country. When we reached the stadium, the highlight of my entire life began. Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/oleksandr-and-valeriy-haiday
'There is nothing better than football to bring people together'
I fell in love with football as a young child, when I used to play with my friends at school. As I got older, I met people who supported so many different teams. It was fantastic to have the chance to learn all about different clubs and leagues. I eventually moved to Sevastopol and met my wife. A lot of things changed in my life, and the time available for me to enjoy football was greatly reduced. However when my sons had grown up, my interest in the game came back all over again. Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/oleksandr-sydelnykov
'The new times have come and I am happy to witness is with my own eyes'
I've always been not only a football fan, but an active player. In 1979, as a teenager I trained at the football section at my favoutrite FC Karpaty Lviv. In 1983 I did my military service in Hungary and played for my regiment. After a terrible accident that changed my life, I couldn’t play anymore, but it didn’t stop me from following my favourite team. There was no permanent disabled supporters group at that time. I came to the stadium with my friends, and was seated on the track near the pitch. There was no shelter to protect us from rain or snow, no accessible toilets. But it was less important than the opportunity to watch the matches. Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/mikhailo-bashynskiy
'I enjoy football to the fullest'
Football has fascinated me ever since my childhood years. Because of my disability I could never play football professionally, but I could very much enjoy the matches between my twin brother and his friends. At a later time in my life, I found that I needed to enjoy football in a different way. From that moment on, I became an active supporter of Vitesse Arnhem. The atmosphere in the stadium gives me the maximum experience of football. Football is no longer something passive for me, but something that has become a bigger and bigger part of my life. Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/raymond-klaasen
'Watching my team is like the engine in a motorbike'
My name is Marek, and I am nine years old. I have been going to watch my team with my dad ever since I was six, and I want to be a football player when I am older. My team, Lechia Gdansk, play at the PGE Arena where some UEFA EURO 2012 games were played. When we first moved to this stadium, the railings on the wheelchair platform were too high and it was difficult to watch the match. It is a lot easier for me now as they are much lower. The stadium is now a lot more accessible and that makes for an even better occasion for me. Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/marek-mizera
'This is just the birth of audio descriptive commentary in Ukraine'
“The first thing that I would like to do is send my sincerest thanks to CAFE, UEFA and the National Assembly of Disabled People – CAFE’s local implementing partner in Ukraine. I see the work done around audio descriptive commentary as part of the project being just the start, and hopefully this service will be offered both at sports and non-sports events. “CAFE’s audio descriptive commentary trainers told us that 17% of all sporting events in their country allowed blind and partially sighted supporters to “see” the action via audio descriptive commentary. I also know that films and cartoons in countries such as Russia and Belarus often use the service. Audio descriptive commentary makes an event so much more accessible, it is fantastic! Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/lubomir-pokotylo
'By the end of it, I saw a rainbow'
Football for me is more than just a game, it is my life. Following my team, Shakhtar Donetsk, has given me some great memories, and it is fantastic to be able to feel like such a part of it. Football has also provided me with employment. With UEFA EURO 2012 being co-hosted by Ukraine I was appointed as the Donetsk co-ordinator for the National Assembly of Disabled People, CAFE’s local implementing partner for the UEFA EURO 2012 Respect Inclusion project – Football with No Limits. I find my role to be so rewarding – we still have a long way to go but it is such a great feeling when we are able to have a positive effect and improve accessibility for other disabled people. Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/larysa-sayevich
'The difference was staggering, there was absolutely no comparison'
“For Ukraine, the development of audio descriptive commentary is just fantastic. Prior to UEFA EURO 2012, it was very rarely provided, and tended to just consist of somebody telling listeners what was happening in very little detail. It was in the Ukrainian Cup final match on the 6th of May that I heard the Respect Inclusion – Football with No Limits audio descriptive commentary for the first time, and the difference was staggering. There was absolutely no comparison. Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/eugen-svet
'Quite simply, I just love football'
In my family, everybody supports Lechia Gdansk. Ever since I started to watch them in 2007, I have fallen in love with this club and I go to watch them every time they play. Quite simply, I just love football. I am 14 years old, and I have already won two successive tournaments in Poland based around how much you know about the UEFA European Championships, including statistics such as goalscorers, red and yellow cards and even the weight of the trophy. I also gave lectures called “Football Is My Passion” at the Academy of Physical Education and the Technical University of Gdansk, and have been invited to Poznan to give a talk. Read more - http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/dawid-zapisek