"I promise, if you are anything like me you will go and you will love it"

 

Mike Kearney

A recent video of a partially sighted Liverpool supporter recently went viral on social media, showing the fan being told about a Mohamed Salah goal by his cousin and their subsequent celebrations.

 

The fan in question was Mike Kearney, who was attending the UEFA Champions League Group C match between his side and Napoli at Anfield. His video can be viewed here.

 

In an interview with BBC Sport, Mike said, "I'm like every other football fan - it doesn't matter if I can't see clearly, I still celebrate. It was just relief that we scored."

 

CAFE has since spoken with Mike, to find out more about his matchday experiences and his message for other partially sighted and blind people who may be interested in attending a live football match.


 "My eye condition is retinitis pigmentosa, which is a degenerative disease", said Mike. "However when I was growing up my eyesight was a lot better. Therefore when I was going to school, although I was obviously different in terms of what vision I had to everybody else, it was never really a big problem".

 

"Even when I attended a mainstream school up to the age of 11, I’d always play football at break time like any other person who had 20/20 vision. I never really seen myself as different at a young age, because I had grown up in a family where it was just normal, I was just Mike. A son, grandson, nephew and cousin and treated just like any other family member. Because that’s what I am".

 

"Ever since we were young, my family and particularly my cousins have always been very close. We would all play together at weekends, our grandmother would make us all a roast dinner, and we'd play any sports or any computer games together. All of this it’s probably the reason that the bond everybody has seen in the video between me and my cousin is so strong. The truth is, it could have been anyone of my family on the video and the same thing would happen (except for any Everton fans in the family, who might have been a little more disappointed that Salah had scored!)".

 

"I attend every home game in all competitions, and have done for about five seasons. I do manage to get to some domestic away trips whenever I can get tickets. So far, the only European away match I have attended was the UEFA Europa League match at Manchester United in 2016, but hopefully I can get to one abroad at some point in the future".

 

"Liverpool are aware that I am partially sighted, and I provided evidence of my disability when first applying for disabled fans tickets. I’m not a season ticket holder yet, but I am a member. When I am at the match, I have the option of listening to a live commentary but, for me, I prefer not to use it. My family always explain what is happening and I can see a little, and can be swept up in the atmosphere with everybody else".

 

"I am really fortunate to have been at a lot of good and important matches at Anfield. Some of my favourite include The UEFA Champions League semi-final in 2007 versus Chelsea. I was 15, and it was my first real taste of a massive game.  I can vividly remember every single detail of that night, the noise was something I’d never experienced before. It was also at a time when my eyes were a lot better than they are currently, and the colour of the occasion is also burnt into my memory".

 

"At that time, it was more difficult to get a ticket if you were disabled and not a season ticket holder. You had to apply six weeks in advance and be entered into a ballot, so I was really lucky that I was pulled out of the hat to experience my first ever European semi-final. The ticketing side is a lot easier and more accessible now".

 

"It is also always nice to be there when you beat your rivals, so obviously wins against Everton and Manchester United stand out. No matter how they come, they are all great. This season has been good for that so far, with a last gasp win against Everton and a more-than comfortable victory against Manchester United".

 

"Recently I’ve been at some of the more memorable European nights at Anfield, including the UEFA Europa League run in 2016. Playing against Manchester United in the quarter-final was really special and the 4-3 win against Borussia Dortmund was an amazing game. I know a lot of fans from other clubs turn their noses up at the atmosphere at Anfield but that’s up to them. Nights like that are really special".

 

"Last season's UEFA Champions League campaign was also very special. The home matches against Manchester City and AS Roma were both amazing - the noise and the passion was breath taking, and I felt great and lucky to be a part of it. Unfortunately as we left the stadium after the AS Roma match we were devastated to hear about the Liverpool fan, Sean Cox, who had been attacked before the game. It was outside the same stand that I sit in every week, which really drove home the fact that it could have been anyone, including me. Thankfully Sean is making slow but steady progress towards a recovery, which is fantastic news".

 

"The advice that I would give to anybody who is partially sighted or blind about going to football is this - the worst thing you can do is not go. You should at least try it, and see if it is for you. If you go and don’t enjoy it, then you will know for sure, but I promise if you are anything like me you will go and you will love it". 

 

"Whether that is sampling live football the way I do with a trusted friend or family member helping you out by describing things that you might miss, or by listening to the dedicated audio-descriptive commentary that some stadiums offer, definitely give it a go. Why should you miss out while everybody else is having loads of fun?".

 

"A lot of people I’ve met while going to the football don’t care who or what you are, as long as you support the team then you are one of them".


We would like to thank Mike for sharing his important message. Mike's story is so similar to that of many other disabled football fans across Europe - that football truly does have the unique power to change lives and provide memories that will last a lifetime.

 

If you are interested in finding out more about audio-descriptive commentary - a dedicated service to accompany the matchday experience of partially sighted and blind fans, you can find information on the CAFE Audio-descriptive Commentary Network and Training Programme here.

 

If you are a disabled fan and would like to share your story with us, please feel free to contact our Fans Liaison, Access and Administration Officer Amy Wilson by email to amy@cafefootball.eu or call +44(0)208 065 5108. You can also get in touch with us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cafefootball or on Twitter @cafefootball.