About Deaf Football
There are currently 25 active deaf football clubs in Great Britain – most of them compete in mainstream football leagues around Britain. The majority of clubs compete in the British Deaf Football Cup annually, which has been running since 1959.
Clubs from England also compete for the English Deaf Cup, and Scottish clubs participate in the Scottish Deaf Cup.
A Proud History
Deaf Football in Great Britain has a very proud and strong history, dating back to 1871. It is also a history that is virtually unknown to the majority of the followers of football in Britain.
Deaf Football clubs have been around longer than the majority of all the teams in the English and Scottish Football League pyramid. Great Britain boasts the oldest deaf football club in the world in Glasgow Deaf Athletic Football Club, founded in 1871, who are, to date, still going strong.
Glasgow Deaf Athletic Football Club is one of the oldest clubs in the world, set up only eleven years after Sheffield FC who are known to be the first football club in the world. Glasgow Deaf Athletic Football Club was also established before famous clubs such as Rangers FC (1873), Celtic (1881) and Manchester United (1878).
Professional Deaf Footballers
Several deaf footballers have managed to reach the professional ranks over the last century, but the number is not large – a total of around a dozen have been noted. Some have reached the highest levels of the game, while others have had only limited opportunities to succeed at the top level: some accounts suggest that yet more appear to have been rejected because of their inability to hear, rather than because of their footballing abilities. Those deaf footballers achieving league status include instances of players born either profoundly deaf at an early age, or during their playing careers. However it is no doubt significant that no profoundly deaf players – as in professional players who became deafened – have appeared in professional teams during the last twenty years or so.
Famous Professional Deaf Footballers
Billy Nesbitt – Burnley
Cliff Bastin – Arsenal and England
Raymond Drake – Stockport County
Rodney Marsh – QPR, Manchester City, Fulham and England
Jimmy Case – Liverpool, Southampton and Brighton
Standard of Deaf Football Today in Great Britain
Great Britain Deaf have been crowned World Champions 6 times since the Deaflympics was formed in 1924, which is more than any other country. The Deaflympics is the second oldest international sporting competition after the Olympics.
Great Britain, captained by Fulham DFC’s Nick Beese last won Gold in at the 20th Deaflympics in 2005. At the 21st Deaflympics, which took place in 2009, defending champions Great Britain, captained by current club captain Jon Evans had a frustrating Deaflympics, finishing in 9th place despite only losing one game in the entire tournament, which was against USA in the group stages.
GB Goalkeeper John Atkinson from Doncaster College Deaf Football Club represented England Futsal (mainstream), as an outfield player in 2006, picking up seven caps.
Doncaster College Deaf Football Club made both deaf history and football history by winning the 2005 FA National Futsal Championships. Doncaster CDFC became the first ever disability team to win a major mainstream football competition. Doncaster CDFC was the sole England representative in the UEFA Futsal Cup in 2007/08. Fulham DFC star Daniel Hogan played an instrumental part in the success of Doncaster CDFC, before moving back to London after his studies and joining Fulham DFC.
Current Fulham DFC centre forward Lee Farrell enjoyed a heroic FA Cup run with non league Horsham FC, taking then League One leaders Swansea FC to a second round replay. In 2004/05 Philip Hagen was a squad member for the Scottish Football League Second Division side Raith Rovers FC.
Great Britain Women, boosted by eight players from the treble winning Fulham Deaf Ladies squad and captained by club captain Esther Maycock narrowly missed out on winning bronze, after losing to Russia in the bronze medal play off at the 21st Deaflympics in Taiwan. However, Great Britain did win bronze at the 2005 games in Melbourne, beating Denmark in the 3/4th place play off.
As a sensory impairment, deafness is a hidden ‘disability’. While deaf footballers compete regularly against their hearing peers, they face certain hidden disadvantages, such as not being able to hear instructions during a game when in motion, a referee’s decision or crowd reactions. These are all aspects of the game enjoyed by a hearing player and that can make a difference during the course of a match.
Under international criteria, to be eligible to compete in deaf football competitions, players must have an average hearing loss of 55 Decibels or more in the best ear. All players competing in deaf matches must remove all hearing aids before competing, which can affect balance – another important element for a hearing player’s game.
Extracts from this page from: britishdeaffootball.com and the book ‘Deaf United’, written by Martin Atherton. This book can be purchased from Forest Books.
Photo: York Deaf & Dumb Mission FC 1916. From UCL.