News and fans' stories #MyMatchday We are all there for the same reasons – to watch the match and to cheer on our team As part of our ongoing #MyMatchday series, and to tie in with the launch of our research project into non-visible disabilities and long-term health conditions, CAFE recently interviewed a young football fan named Fedya. Fedya is a 13-year-old fan from Russia, and we spoke with him about some of his favourite moments and memories as a football fan. Fedya is autistic, and we asked him how this impacts on his typical matchday experience. Who is your favourite football team? I watch a lot of football matches. My favourite team is Valencia from Spain, and my favourite Valencia player is the winger Ferran Torres. Do you watch much live football inside the stadiums? I went to my first game in August 2014 when I was 8 years old. I usually go to a few matches a year, and have been to the VEB Arena and Russian Railways Arena in Russia as well as Estadio da Luz in Portugal. What have been your favourite memories from a live match? I will never forget the Benfica vs Porto match I went to in Lisbon. The way that the two sets of fans supported their teams was incredible, and there was an amazing atmosphere for the entire game. Why is football important to you? Football is one of the most important parts of my life. It is my main hobby and my favourite sport. I just love football! What are your typical matchday experiences like? My first match wasn’t a very difficult experience. I went with my dad and my brother. By that age, I already understood that the world can be quite a different place and people will behave differently to others. When I was younger, I would sometimes struggle if I had to walk somewhere that I didn’t know, or would just stay at home. If I didn’t know what was going to happen, I wouldn’t leave the house. My parents used to have to give me as much information as they could before we went anywhere. For example, if we were going to the theatre then they would tell me what will happen there, who will be there and what they expected of me. I guess they probably did this before I went to my first football match too. In any case, I really liked my first match and every match that I have been to since. How do other fans treat you and react to you? They treat me the same as every other supporter in the stadium. We are all there for the same reasons – to watch the match and to cheer on our team. Have you faced many barriers in attending live matches? To be honest, there hasn’t been many bad experiences. The stadiums are understanding different disabled people better than ever before and making sure that we can enjoy the game. I’ve never had a problem with the facilities inside the stadiums but that might be different for different people. It is important for me that there is a routine and schedule on matchdays. For example, the players coming out for their warm ups at the right time helps me to relax and enjoy myself. It hasn’t happened before, but if anyone took our seats then that would be a big problem for me too. Do you have a message for other fans with autism who might be worried about attending a live match? It is important that you go to the match with someone who you trust and who understands what happens at a match. They can explain and help you to be prepared for what might happen. I hope that many more fans do go to matches and that you love them as much as me! We would like to thank Fedya for taking part in the #MyMatchday series and sharing his experiences with us. Fedya’s story reminds us that different people may encounter different barriers on a matchday, and it is important that football offers a fully inclusive, accessible and welcoming experience for all fans. We hope that many more fans will feel empowered by Fedya’s story and enjoy live football matches with confidence. CAFE has commenced a research project to better inform our works around non-visibly disabled people and people with long term health conditions. We hope to offer robust guidance for stakeholders across football to welcome such fans to their stadiums and ensure that the game truly is fully accessible – Total Football #TotalAccess. To support this project, we have launched a survey for non-visibly disabled people, people with a long-term health condition or their companions to complete. The survey can be found here, and will be open until 1800 CET on 15 May 2020 (Word document version available to download here). We thank you for sharing your experiences with us, and you can find out more about the survey and wider research project here. 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)208 065 5108. You can also contact CAFE via Twitter at @cafefootball and Facebook on www.facebook.com/cafefootball.