News and fans' stories Disabled fans' stories "Stewards would look at my eyes and insist that I was drunk" To mark World Sight Day 2020, we spoke with CSKA Moscow fan Sergey Bykasov. He told us about his experiences as a partially sighted fan attending live matches. My Dad has always been a CSKA fan, so I didn't have a choice really and have been following the club for as long as I can remember. For 15 years now, I have attended as many home and away matches as possible. From 2006 to 2011, I had a season ticket and did my best to attend every home match. However, since then I have moved to another city which has meant that I am not able to attend as many home games. My earliest memory is of my first match against FC Alania in 2005 at the Dynamo stadium. I really enjoyed it and knew that I had to come back. This was also when I decided that Ivica Olic was my favourite player. His speed and desire to score goals is something I will never forget and that we have not had at CSKA since he left in 2007. My matchday routine depends on the importance of the game. If it is a derby for example, then I will usually meet up with my friends beforehand to discuss the match and if we think that we will win or lose. These games are always exciting although I am no longer as nervous as I once was. I used to be very worried about how the match would turn out, but I am much calmer these days. If we lose, that's okay, let's move on! Away matches are different, and can be much more emotional. New city, new emotions. You often get to see and learn something new as well as build friendships with the other fans who also made the journey to support CSKA. I try to attend two or three away matches per season if my work schedule allows for it. I used to go alone, without anyone to depend on, but I now travel with a companion which is much better. It is often at these away fixtures, outside of Moscow that there can be difficulties as a disabled fan. The stewards and police don't always understand that disabled people also like to attend football matches, including partially sighted and blind fans like myself. They don't understand why I would bother to come to the stadium if I can't see the match. At first I struggled to accept this reaction and was hurt by it, but over time I realised that it is because of a lack of awareness. Awareness about blind and partially sighted fans. Just because I'm partially sighted doesn't mean that I can't support my team. Unfortunately, this lack of awareness can also lead to some frustrating and potentially humiliating misunderstandings. I have been refused entry to stadiums because stewards have mistook my disability for alcohol or drug consumption. Between 2008 and 2010, this seemed to happen a lot. Stewards would look at my eyes and insist that I was drunk. It was only once I'd spoken to the senior steward and shown my proof of disability that I was allowed entry to the stadium. Over time, more people partially sighted and blind fans began to attend matches, raising awareness with staff, stewards and police. This means that it is now less likely for me to be refused entry but I still think progress needs to be made for club staff and stewards to understand what kind of help I may need. The level of assistance necessary or wanted by a disabled fan can vary. For some partially sighted or blind fans it is important to know exactly what is happening on the pitch, in which case audio-descriptive commentary is perfect. However, I personally like to focus on supporting and driving my team forward. I am guided by the fans around me and follow their reactions to know if we have scored or if there was a goal opportunity. I then watch the rest of the match when I get home. I would always recommend going to football games if it is something that is of interest. It is an extremely positive part of my life, providing me with lots of emotions and opportunities to express my emotions too. There's no need to be afraid of attending games, other fans are often very helpful and hopefully awareness will only continue to grow around disabled fans. We would like to thank Sergey for sharing his powerful story with us and highlighting some of the common issues faced by many disabled fans, as well as specific barriers affecting partially sighted and blind fans. Sergey discussed some of the consequences of the lack of awareness around disabled fans and how this can lead to undesirable situations, particularly with stadium staff and stewards. World Sight Day is an annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October, to focus global attention on the barriers faced by partially sighted and blind people within society. It is estimated that there are over a quarter of a billion partially sighted and blind people living today, and this is a figure than continues to rise. Partially sighted and blind people can often be excluded from many aspects of life that others take for granted, including daily personal activities, interacting with the community, school and work opportunities and the ability to access public services. If you are a disabled fan, or know a disabled fan who would like to participate in our Disabled Fans' Stories, 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, Facebook or Instagram.