News and fans' stories Disabled fans' stories “I have gone through countless emotions." CAFE recently had the opportunity to speak to Simon Scheidegger as part of our #MyMatchday fan interview series. Simon is a disabled football fan who supports BSC Young Boys in Switzerland. He attended his first match in 2001, and has been a season ticket holder for the past 14 years. How did you become a supporter of your club? My uncle played as an amateur for the senior team of the club. When I was 11 years old he took me to my first match, and I have never stopped attending since. I go to all our home matches, and as many away matches as possible. There have been seasons in which I have only missed 2 or 3 matches. What is your earliest memory of going to a match? When I first went to watch them, Young Boys were playing at a much smaller ground because the new stadium was being built. They played against Grasshoppers and lost 4-1. It was raining the entire time, and I remember that the captain of the opposing team came to shake my hand at the end of the match. What are your favourite memories from supporting your club? The memory that outshines everything else was when Young Boys won their first title for 32 years last April. It was probably the most emotional day of my life so far. They secured the title with an 89th minute goal, just after our goalkeeper Marco Wölfli had saved a penalty at the other end. I even cried tears of joy when I woke up the next day, and I still get emotional every time I see highlights of the game! Experiences at away games have a special place in my heart too. I really enjoyed the match when we drew 2-2 against Liverpool at Anfield with a late goal, and when we played Manchester United at Old Trafford last year. Who is your favourite ever player and why? I like many players, especially in the team that won the title. One player I really appreciated though was Scott Sutter, who played as a right back for the club for five years. He played with heart and passion, and was approachable off the pitch too. I also thought Guillaume Hoarau, Loris Benito and Kevin Mbabu were great. What does your typical matchday routine look like? I drive to the stadium in my car, and meet my companion at our seats. We will watch the match and head home, but sometimes I’ll meet friends before or after the match too. For away matches, I will often travel via transport organised for the fans. I’ll meet other supporters in the pub to chat about the game, and if it’s a Europa or Champions League game I might stay on for a few days to explore the city. Have you ever had to sit away from your fellow fans at a match? The wheelchair spaces at away matches are rarely located near the other away fans, with the only exceptions I’ve seen being at Liverpool, Manchester United and FK Partizan. I think it is essential that the clubs provide seats for disabled supporters which are in the same location, or at least close, to where the other fans of your club are. The more you feel part of the group, the more fun it is. How has your experience changed in the time you have been attending live matches? The stadiums have been modernised and in most of them there are now designated wheelchair spaces, which was not always the case. However, some stadiums are still more easily accessible for disabled people than others. Have you encountered any access problems when attending live matches? When I was in the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow we were supposed to watch the match from the designated wheelchair spaces. However, these were in amongst the FC Anzhi Makhachkala fans, and we were too scared to watch the game there. My friend therefore helped me up and down several flights of stairs to get to the away section of the stadium. Other than that instance, I have always had access although my sightlines will often vary. Poor access has never stopped me from attending a match, especially as I usually have friends and family attending matches with me. I don’t let anything stop me from following my passion. What do you think clubs can do to help improve the matchday experience for all disabled supporters? I think it is important for clubs to provide a good view of the pitch for everyone. In some stadiums I have visited the view is impeded, meaning I cannot see the pitch entirely. Do you feel valued by your club as a disabled fan? I feel valued by my club in some ways, like the fact that they have adjusted the ticket prices so that every disabled supporter pays the same amount regardless of where their seat is. However, other than that, the club does not do much to make disabled supporters feel valued. What impact has attending your club’s matches had on you? I have gone through countless emotions, good and bad, which I think can only be felt when you follow a sports team with passion. I have met many people who share the same passion, and some have become my friends. What message would you give to a disabled fan who has not been to a live match yet? Just go. You won’t regret it. The CAFE team would like to thank Simon for taking part in our interview. Simon’s insights into how issues like poor sightlines and the location of seating can impact a matchday experience, shows the importance of ensuring an accessible and inclusive game for all. If you are a disabled fan, or know a disabled fan who would like to participate in our #MyMatchday interviews, please feel free to contact CAFE’s Fan Liaison, Access and Administration Officer, Amy Wilson, by email on [email protected] or call +44 (0)208065 5108. You can also contact CAFE via Twitter at @cafefootball and Facebook on www.facebook.com/cafefootball.