The night football came home to Hackney
– by Allan Mabert, Essex Blind Charity Board Member
It was about 10:30 and the late news on TV was about to conclude with the weather forecast when the phone rang. Trish, my wife, said it must be family or a wrong number, it was neither. At the other end of the line came a soft female American voice who introduced herself as Hannah, a film producer from LA. She had been given my name by an online magazine called Dancing Giraffe who had interviewed me about Sporting Legacies shortly after the 2012 London Olympics.
Hannah went to explain that she had been commissioned by Budweiser to produce a short promo featuring 3 fans who are blind supporting their country in the World Cup. Budweiser was the official beer at Russia 2018 with the slogan ‘Light Up The World’. With this in mind a special cup/beer glass had been designed that flashed red when filled with beer or activated by ambient sound whilst the bottom rim vibrated when your team were attacking the opponent’s goal. At this point in the conversation I must admit I wondered if I had been a victim of time travel and the subject of an elaborate hoax or April fool.
Hannah, who by now was sounding very credible, went on to say she and her 4 man crew were traveling to Bogota in Colombia and Mexico City to film 2 blind fans supporting their respective countries. Budweiser were keen to have a blind fan to represent the home of football following an England game with a group of friends in a traditional pub. I am not good at making quick decisions late at night but found myself agreeing to this bizarre request without being entirely certain what I was letting myself in for. But how could I resist the lure of a vibrating beer glass which would be continually topped up with beer.
Hannah and her charming crew duly arrived in London and things began to move at a lightening pace. The pub chosen was The Sebright Arms in Hackney. I thought this was such an appropriate location as Hackney Marshes were famous as a breeding ground for grassroots football in London. The crew, which had now grown to 7 in number, spent most of Sunday at our house filming and conducting interviews. Everything was
now set for the big match which was to be England v Colombia on Tuesday 3rd July. A minibus was arranged to pick up our friends who had bravely agreed to be part of this adventure. When we arrived at The Sebright Arms, Budweiser’s hospitality was excellent throughout the evening. Our group was to view the match in a private room on a jumbo sized TV screen. I was the only one of the group whose beer glass had the vibrating feature which was remotely controlled, by the inventor of the system, from the other side of the room. I was flanked by Trish and Susan, Chair of EBC, and her husband, Colin, who also provided me with a commentary at critical points in the game as the noise the group of us generated masked the TV audio. It’s true to say that throughout the duration of the match, which went to extra time and penalties, our flashing glasses were never seen empty which may have accounted for the high level of vocal support we gave England on their way to a glorious victory. We all left the pub in high spirits clutching our limited edition FIFA World Cup glasses which was a gift from the host.
As for the vibrating feature I can see it being of some benefit, as an accompaniment to an audio commentary, to a blind fan who is with friends in a sports bar, sports cafe, fan zone or even in their home watching TV from the comfort of their sofa. The inventor explained to me that this was version 1 and he would welcome feedback on future developments. One suggestion that immediately comes to mind is a second band of vibration that would indicate when the opponents have possession of the ball in your team’s half of the field. I also think that the system has special significance for a deaf blind football fan with its tactile output.
This was an unexpected and enjoyable experience for everyone involved. Global companies such as Budweiser are to be applauded for giving their support to research and finding imaginative solutions that give people with disabilities a chance to enjoy a more inclusive lifestyle.
The following link gives you a flavour of the evening’s proceedings!
Essex Blind Charity
Helpline 01206 548196
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