Sport25th October 2013

Fulham Deaf Football Club

In their 10th year since formation, the Fulham Deaf Football Club has proved a great success

by Sarah Lawrence

Deaf Sport has a long and well established history in the United Kingdom, with many clubs forming out of necessity to give deaf sportspeople an opportunity that mainstream sport was denying them. Deaf Football dates back to the 1870s, and as with all deaf sports, the formation of clubs provided more than an opportunity to take part. Deaf sports clubs provided a sense of identity and community as well as competition between different clubs.

Deaf Football has survived the test of time and those clubs that exist still provide its members with a social and cultural bond that is not always available in wider society. A relatively new club is Fulham Deaf Football Club, and I have been fortunate enough to talk to Nick Beese about the club. 

Fulham Deaf Football Club was formed a mere 10 years ago in 2003, but it has already established itself as one of the most successful outfits in Europe. The club enjoys a large pool of deaf footballers and Nick told me that the formation of the club has created a real sense of community at Motspur Park, where the club is based.

For Fulham, it all started at an open meeting that was held on 26th March 2003. Amidst enthusiasm and support for the development of a deaf football club, a small new club committee was created. Christof Niklaus was installed as the first Men's Team Manager and Ayad Sarraf was recruited as the Assistant Manager.  With more limited numbers, the women's team focused on building up their pool of women players and starting with 5-a-side.

In their first season, the Men's Team won an incredible treble by winning the British Deaf Cup, the KDFL League Intermediate Cup and getting promoted at their first attempt. At the end of 2005, Ayad took over the managerial reins and continued the club’s success with several cup trophies and further league promotions.

Looking back over these first 10 years, the Fulham Deaf Football Club have now been British Deaf Champions four times in 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2013, a success rate that no other deaf football club can rival. Built on solid foundations, and true to the tradition of deaf sports clubs, there is a real sense of stability and community at the club, where deaf footballers have remained loyal for several years and where there have been only two managers in place for the men's team over the ten years.

Fulham Deaf Football Club Women's Team started out as a 5-a-side team, before progressing into a full squad, when they then joined the Surrey County Women’s League in 2005. Today the women’s squad is also well recognised in the UK after competing in mainstream and deaf competitions over the last 8 years. The club has also provided youth football opportunities both in training and competitions for young deaf footballers. The door for youth players remains open at the club, and youngsters who enjoy football are encouraged to get in touch with the club.

As a consequence of the success at the club, several deaf footballers have earned international call ups and have represented their countries at tournaments such as the Deaflympics Football Competitions, World Deaf Football Championships (now renamed Deaf World Cup) and also the World Deaf Futsal Championships (now renamed Deaf Futsal World Cup).

In the 2013 Deaflympics Football Competition, there was an incredible ten of Fulham Deaf Women's Club representing the Great Britain Women's team, with that team going on to secure the bronze medal inside the national Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria. This was the second time Great Britain Women had won the bronze medal at the Deaflympics, the previous occasion being 2005 when there were two of the team in the side. Other Fulham team members have also represented their respective countries in international competition.

Previously at the 2009 Deaflympics Football Competition, the club had achieved a record fifteen of their players representing both Great Britain and Ireland.

At the 2005 Deaflympics Football Competition, held in Melbourne, five footballers from Fulham Deaf Football Club Men represented the Great Britain Men's team in winning the gold medal. Nick Beese, the current club Chairman is proud to have captained the victorious team.

The Club has also been instrumental in getting coaching staff national recognistion as well, with both Mark Saunderson and Chris McGinn progressing from coaching at the club, to become Head Coach for Great Britain Deaf after learning BSL during their coaching at Motspur Park.

Christof Niklaus, the Club's first manager Christof Niklaus took up the position of Honorary President in 2011, while still working for the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD) as the Football Technical Director and Sports Manager.

Like many football clubs, Fulham Deaf Football Club have received a lot of support, and Nick is keen to recognise the contribution of Mohammed and Karim Al Fayed who have been significant supporters of the club for almost ten years. They have made generous donations and there has also been support from sponsors. Nick explains that without the Fulham FC Foundation (FFCF), the club would not be where it is today. "With the use of Motspur Park, coaches, equipment and resources provided by FFCF, our club has grown from strength to strength in becoming a real community club," explained Nick.

Fulham Deaf Football Club’s philosophy:

1. Fulham Deaf FC acknowledge the world-wide values of self-respect, sportsmanship, and competition, which go beyond all boundaries of age, gender, race, religion, political beliefs, and nationalities.

2. Fulham Deaf FC believes that through deaf football & recreational opportunities, football training, football coaching and football competitions, deaf and hard of hearing footballers can benefit physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually in an environment of acceptance, equality, and mutual respect.

3. Fulham Deaf FC also believes in the consistent and continuous training and development of deaf and hard of hearing individuals as players, coaches, and officials.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Sport / Sport

25th October 2013