England women’s blind player Kaitlyn Clark on her Para Lions pride

Kaitlyn Clark can’t quite believe she’s representing England.

Although only 17 years old, it has been a long road for Clark to get to the point where she represents the Para Lions blind women’s team.

Clark played on able-bodied teams for many years but found limited opportunities on the pitch due to her visual impairment.

“It feels pretty surreal,” Clark said.

“Sometimes you feel like you don’t deserve it, but then you realize you deserve it because of all the hard work; You wouldn’t be here without a reason.

“I’ve had a lot of problems in mainstream football because I was singled out because of my visual impairment. I had to constantly prove myself to even get five minutes on a pitch.

“Then I switched to men’s football with all the disabilities, where I had to fight and prove myself again and I just proved everything they were wrong.

“With everything I’ve been through, wearing the kit puts everything in perspective and makes you think maybe I deserve it for everything I’ve been through.”

“It will be exciting. Of course there are nerves, there always will be, but it’s going to be really exciting,” she added.

“It’s been a hell of a long journey. You go from normal soccer player to elite soccer player.

“It happened very quickly so it was confusing at first, you’re suddenly in the kit and then you realize you’re an England player now.

“Our first international competition and we look pretty strong as a team so hopefully we can come back with something.

“Hopefully through the Euros it will help broaden people’s views on it and make it more widely known.

“I think that would be one of the greatest things about what we do – to put it on the map and give other people opportunities that they might have missed.”

Raising the profile of blind football is something Clark is very keen to achieve through her appearances with the Para Lions, hoping that blind and partially sighted footballers will have more opportunities.

“Anyone interested in football who is blind or partially sighted shouldn’t lock the doors to playing football because there’s no way out there, if there is one, it’s just slightly hidden,” Clark said.

“I think if the pathway for the visual impairment had been there earlier, I probably could have progressed my development much faster, but even then it’s still evolving pretty quickly.”

Clark has now firmly settled in after attending the first-ever camp for the blind women’s team last summer and has forged close bonds with her new teammates on and off the pitch.

The players meet for regular camps at England’s elite training facility, St George’s Park, and Clark knows the benefits on the field of strengthening their relationships off the park.

“It’s a real family, team bond,” added Clark.

“You can laugh with them, you can have serious conversations with them, you can trust them when you have problems.

“The more we connect off the field the stronger we are on the field so we just keep going and making sure we connect, play some Uno every now and then.

“It went up very quickly, in the beginning neither of us knew each other and we didn’t talk and now we all really get along, like sisters, and within about seven months we bonded and bonded really well.

“When one of us is gone, it’s like a part of the family is missing or you’re missing a body part.”

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