Deaf Sports Stars26th September 2014

Dedication and Hard Work Underpin Success with GB Deaf Football

Chris Beech has enjoyed a glittering GB Deaf Football career

by Sarah Lawrence

There are so many good things to say about Deaf sport and how it opens up opportunities for Deaf people. Whether it is about keeping fit and healthy, building self confidence, being involved in deaf culture or making some life long friends, deaf sport has a lot going for it. For some of the deaf people taking part, it is all about the participation but for others, it is about working their socks off to make sure the sporting activity remains available for years to come.

40 years old Deaf footballer, Chris Beech, falls into the latter category, now helping to run GB Deaf Football even though he continues to ply his trade as part of the Black Country Deaf Football team.

Born into a Deaf family and brought up in the West Midlands, Chris now lives in Wolverhampton. Deaf from birth, Chris went to a mainstream school in Solihull until he was 11 where he was placed in the ‘Partially Hearing Unit’. He then went to Mary Hare and finished off his studies at Derby College. It was whilst at school that Chris developed an ambition to be a professional sportsman.

Taught British Sign Language by his family, Chris was taught Sign Supported English (SSE) in the Partial Hearing Unit and then orally whilst at Mary Hare. Taking up football at Primary School, Chris continued playing whilst at Mary Hare School because there was not an option to play rugby. With good sports teachers at Mary Hare, Chris developed and enjoyed playing for the Deaf team at the school.

Coached by a Deaf teacher, Chris feels he was able to fully develop as a player. It was only when he started playing for hearing teams that his deafness starting to affect his communication with the team, but he nevertheless feels that the teams he played for, did all they could to support him, despite having never met a Deaf footballer before.

Chris made his debut for the GB Deaf team in 1995, going on to represent his country with great distinction. Asked about his greatest GB Deaf Football role, Chris replied, “Vice captaining GB to Deaflympic’s gold in Melbourne in 2005 and captaining the side to the European silver medal in Portugal in 2007.” In addition to his playing career, Chris became a trustee of GB Deaf Football in 2004 and took up the post of Vice Chair following the amalgamation of the men’s and ladies teams.

Chris intends to continue his playing career for as long as possible, but also spends a significant amount of time each week on the running of GB Deaf Football, sending and responding to emails, and having meetings via Facetime. Passionate about Deaf football, Chris told me, “When I first started out in Deaf football as a 15 year old, there were endless tournaments all over the country. There were at least 30 successful Deaf 11-a-side football clubs competing in hearing/Deaf cups/leagues supporting regional teams (MDSA, SDSA, Greater London etc) which then fed into International teams.”

“Over the years, Deaf Football has endured too many political conflicts and self serving organisations/clubs/individuals resulting in a very disjointed/broken structure with only about 18 Deaf football teams competing in Deaf cups/league with only half of them competing in mainstream leagues. There is also a lack of recognition in terms of developing 16+ Deaf Football (not just players, but coaches, other officials etc). Hopefully, this will be rectified over the next year or two via the UK Deaf Football Foundation.”

Ultimately, Chris is looking for Deaf football teams and the players to get the recognition they deserve but admits there is still work to do to develop Deaf football. “In addition to the UK Deaf Football Federation implementing a new Deaf Football structure and governance, we need to develop a greater awareness, education and promotion of adult Deaf Football amongst the wider public, including employment of qualified Deaf coaches, managers, and physiotherapists where possible.”

Keen to attract deaf youngsters to the game, Chris advises any budding footballers to, “Work hard, enjoy it and don’t ever give up when the tough gets going.” Chris sets out three key messages for youngsters who might want to get involved in football, “Just do it and do your best at all times. Never let anyone say you cannot do it. Commitment, desire and dedication are the 3 vital ingredients for any successful sportsperson, but the most important advice of all is to believe in yourself. If you want to be the best, like everyone else you will need to have to improvise and make sacrifices along the way.”

Reflecting positively on the development that has occurred in the game, Chris recalled how back in 1990 the GB team had to train on a deserted car park at 6.30 in the morning due to a lack of resources.

With high levels of dedication and determination, Chris has already given a great deal to Deaf football in the UK, but he remains as ambitious about the game today as he did when he first started a quarter of a century ago. It can be a thankless job, so on behalf of all Deaf footballers past and present, we would like to say thank you to Chris and to wish him and the GB Deaf Football Foundation, every success in the future.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Sport / Deaf Sports Stars

26th September 2014