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Deaf footballer thanks Lineker for ‘amazing’ support for fundraiser

A player on the England Deaf Women’s Football Team said it is “amazing” to see support from sporting figures, including Gary Lineker, for a fundraiser to get the team to the World Cup in Malaysia.

The team needs to raise £50,000 by the end of June for expenses including hotel deposits to secure the rooms for September.

Initially, the team set up a fundraising page on April 18, with a £100,000 target to cover kit, accommodation, flights and training camps, among other things.

The fundraiser comes off the back of the Football Association announcing last month that it was switching focus and funding for the national deaf women’s team from the 11-a-side format to futsal.

Players cheering an holding a trophy
The team celebrating with their bronze medals and trophy from the World Cup 2016 (England Deaf Women’s Football Team)

A little over a week ago, a GoFundMe page was set up by Simon Harris, 39, a social media manager who lives in south Essex, who happened upon the team’s campaign on social media, which the team have said they are “grateful” for.

With the deadline to get the money fast approaching, Claire Stancliffe said that a recent £1,000 donation from sports pundit Lineker on the GoFundMe page, as well as £5,000 donations from ex-footballers Gary Neville and Steven Gerrard via the team’s initial fundraising page, have played an “amazing” role in helping spread the word on the campaign.

“It’s just amazing because they were players that I watched when I was growing up,” the 34-year-old from Northamptonshire, who plays as a centre back or central midfielder, depending on the coach, told the PA news agency.

“Steven Gerrard donated and he was my hero; he was my role model.

“For those three people that I’ve seen on TV to show support for the team that I play for, I don’t think there’s words you can say really.

“And it’s not just about the donation they made, it’s about the awareness they’re raising as well, because they’ve also shared our campaign and that’s reached millions of people.”

Woman kissing a trophy
Claire Stancliffe with the World Cup 2016 bronze trophy and medal (England Deaf Women’s Football Team)

She added that support from everyone that has donated has been “lovely”.

Mr Harris told PA that Lineker’s recent donation was “particularly special” because he also spoke about the fundraiser on his Twitter.

“The Gary Lineker one was particularly special because of not only the amount but because he actually put it on his own Twitter and by him sharing the tweet”, the 39-year-old said.

“That opened up the floodgates for the appeal to go into the thousands.

“If we get enough people as high profile as him in the football community doing it, I’m sure that we can reach this target.”

Ms Stancliffe added: “If we don’t reach our target, we simply can’t go.”

She also spoke about why the team want to attend the World Cup, which stems from a desire to represent their country.

“Every footballer’s dream is to represent their country”, she said.

“But also, there is no other deaf women’s football team in the UK, so for me personally, going into a mainstream pivot is so difficult.

“People don’t realise how hard it is to get involved, to socialise, the communication barriers and the isolation it brings and for me to go into a deaf football team, it’s a life changing experience.

“It’s really inclusive and being around people who have been through the same things as you in life is quite empowering.

“And to be able to do that where you’re representing your country, trying to win medals – it’s just great.”

Team in a circle together
Team talk at the Deaflympics 2017 (England Deaf Women’s Football Team)

Ms Stancliffe started playing football when she was around four – which coincides with when she lost her hearing.

She said: “The main reason being (why I was interested in football was) that my mum and dad were massive football fans and we used to have Liverpool playing on the telly.

“Back then, subtitles weren’t a big thing on TV so I couldn’t watch programmes like any other child, so when football was on, that was the main thing.

“You don’t need subtitles to watch football – it’s great, you can see what’s going on and I thought, I want to be like Steven Gerrard and that’s where my love of football came from.”

She added that when she played football in her youth, it “was the one thing where I felt it didn’t really affect me” and went on to join the England Deaf Women’s Football Team at the age of 18.

She hopes the campaign also encourages fellow deaf people to get involved with the sport if they have an interest in it.

She said: “The campaign might lead to children, or even adults, becoming aware of us and wanting to get involved.

“I would say I’ve always been a believer in everything happens for a reason and if there are any opportunities you can get, grab them with both hands.

“UK Deaf Sport are also great at signposting opportunities that are deaf specific or even more inclusive or accessible.”

She added that shares or retweets of the campaign should not be “underestimated”.

“It’s really powerful how many people it can reach.”

The fundraiser can be accessed here: https://www.peoplesfundraising.com/fundraising/england-deaf-womens-football-squad

The GoFundMe page can be found here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/dsff2023?utm_campaign=p_na+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer