Deaf footballer Down scores England squad selection

England Futsal team (Photo credit: Duncan Ogilvie)

To represent your country and score against Germany is undoubtedly up there with the wildest hopes and dreams of many young footballers. And rising star Byron Down can already tick it off his to-do list, aged just 19.

The Essex-based deaf football talent is making a name for himself playing on the wing in the Great Britain U21 Deaf Football Team, as well as recently being named in the England Senior Futsal Team.

Down was the youngest member of the 20-man GB squad who competed in Poland at the European U21 Deaf Championships last August, where the team faced the German side.

But the passionate young player is now looking forward to his next challenge. He revealed: “I’ve just been selected for the Senior Futsal Team and hope to go to Switzerland in January for the European qualifiers.”

Having being scouted as a 15-year-old captaining Tottenham Hotspur’s Deaf Futsal squad, he was identified for the England Development Pathway and quickly progressed through the ranks, later being recommended for TASS support.

“Training with the England coaches and staff started to open my eyes to the world of Deaf Futsal and the commitment needed to succeed,” he said.

Down’s dedication on the field is reflected in his attitude to personal career development. Recently completing a Personal Training and Sports Coaching course, he’s now looking forward to beginning an apprenticeship with Middlesex FA.

“In the future, I hope to move into playing professional football or semi-professional football alongside coaching football to other deaf players, so I’ve spent a year coaching for the FA teaching Futsal at a London Deaf Talent Centre.”

Luckily the young player is now entering his third year of TASS support, accessing specialist services every week via TASS Delivery Site, the University of East London (UEL).

“TASS has helped me so much. Especially the strength and conditioning training which has made me super fit and so much stronger, allowing me to play at a higher intensity.

“When we’re out at major championships like the Champions League in Greece last April, we have to play lots of matches in a short period. This just wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t been in such good shape.

“I’m also proud to now hold the England Futsal record for the bleep test. No deaf player has ever managed to achieve level 14.7 before”.

Photo credit: GB Deaf Football

And what makes Down’s numerous achievements even more remarkable is the reality of playing a team sport with a disability. “Being deaf is a challenge in itself but a large part of football is about communication on and off the pitch,” he explained.

“When you play any major competitions, I have to take my cochlear implant processor off which makes me completely deaf and I have to rely on sign language and lip reading.”

Away from training with Saint John’s Deaf Football club, the young player follows enjoys the same interests as his peers like fashion and film. However rather than indulging in boozy nights out, Down prefers to stay tee-total and focus on his nutrition.

It’s this level of devotion to his sport, coupled with a determination to succeed in his coaching career, that has seen this young footballer continue to realise his ambitions.

FA Talent Pathway Manager, James Watkins, has nominated Down for TASS’ support across the last three years. He said:

“Byron has made significant and rapid progress within The FA’s Disability Talent Programme. Within three seasons he has transitioned from the National Emerging Talent Programme to the England Under 21 and Senior Squad environments.

“Much of this success must be attributed to the outstanding holistic support provided by TASS. The physical development has been significant through exceptional strength and conditioning support tailored to the Futsal game.

“Additionally, he has received performance lifestyle guidance and advice which has positively impacted his approach to elite level sport.

“The culmination of this support has increased his levels of motivation and has in turn shaped Byron’s approach to training, camps and fellow team members. He is a true credit to The FA and to TASS.”