Elena Popova

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. I brought a blue-and-read cake with the ‘Champions’ written on it for the team and they welcomed me very warmly. 

I attend football stadia with my father who is by best friend. There are very few wheelchair users going to matches here. The main problem is getting out from home because there is no accessible ramp in most buildings, and the public transport is totally inaccessible. Nevertheless, there are still many good stadia in Russia which are accessible and provide good views for disabled fans.

I hope that by the World Cup in Russia 2018 there won’t be a single inaccessible stadium in Russia.

I love travelling and most of my travels are going for away matches with my team. I feel very comfortable at European stadia, though sometimes there are also obstacles there. But it’s nothing when compared to the difficulties we face every day in Russia.

My cherished dream is to see my team holding the UEFA Super Cup and the UEFA Champions League trophies. There was another dream that have recently come true. I am collecting match jerseys and have dreamt of Francesco Totti’s jersey for years. I mentioned this once in an interview, and the CSKA coach brought it for me from Italy for the next home match. That was definitely one of the happiest days in my life!