Mark Russell, a talented footballer, is a Metro Blind Sport trustee and an on the pitch volunteer, who, along with his friend, our sport lead Gareth Jones, has helped their cup-winning London Metro Futsal club grow from one team to two. This dynamic duo also delivers regular futsal training sessions and organise all the transport to away games, a fantastic ongoing achievement.
How long have you been interested in sport?
All my life to be honest, I can’t remember not being interested in sports. My dad was always watching football, and I was not just interested in football, I wanted to watch, whether it was Grandstand on a Saturday or Transworld Sport!
I guess I got involved playing football from quite a young age, probably from six years old. I’ve played all the way through my life and I was involved with a Sunday league team. I got involved in other sports, in particular, rugby and cricket.
I lost all of my central vision when I was 19, and then didn’t play any sport for about ten years after I’d initially had the sight loss diagnosed. I then took the plunge and decided, that I wanted to get back into just playing some sport. I’d had an email that someone had forwarded to me, maybe at the RNIB to Metro. It was in 2011, 2012. I think I found out about the football team then.
Why futsal? Why partially sighted football?
When I lost my sight in 2001, I still loved football …and always kept interested in what was happening and what’s going on. I guess I didn’t want to just play again. I spoke to Metro, and I found out that there was a partially sighted league and a team, the London Metro Futsal Club (LMFC), that Metro supported.
I started training with the team and just enjoyed getting back to playing. I think we forget why we play in the first instance. It’s simple. It’s just that pure enjoyment of being out on a football pitch and running around with other like-minded people that enjoy playing football.
I think that the team aspect of football is great. And not just football, but lots of team sports. I enjoy those team elements. I’ve made some really good friends through playing football, cricket, and through being involved with Metro.
Best sporting achievement so far?
Winning the PSFL league against Birmingham, who had been the champions for a number of seasons and had a real stronghold over that.
A year or so before, we were probably quite a long way away from being able to mount a serious challenge, but then to actually have taken that national title and to do it with a group of people that had become really close friends as well was great!
Has sport helped you in other parts of your life?
Massively, it’s not until you reflect and look back that I realised. Sport was quite a big catalyst for me and has given me that confidence to go out there and do other things… I guess it put the ball back in my court.
Why did you become a Metro Blind Sport trustee?
Out of curiosity, at first. I’d already been volunteering a lot of my time in running the football side of things with Gareth. While chatting to Roy Smith, the chairman of Metro at the time, the opportunity came up. I thought I could help with the strategic vision and the running of the charity. I could use my work experience, inclusion, HR, talent recruitment and diversity and bring some of my knowledge to the Board of Trustees.
What’s the best thing about being a trustee?
A sense of purpose, I can help put back into the charity after it has given me a lot of opportunities, to get involved and participate in sport. I add value, and sometimes where I need to, provide a challenge to us as a group. it’s been a really enjoyable experience for me, but a perfect learning curve as well.
What bit of advice would you give to a newbie trustee
Be curious, ask more questions, there are no wrong questions, no question is a bad question. I’ve always admired those people that really don’t mind asking some real key questions…
How has the London Metro futsal club evolved?
Seeing that growth in the club and seeing new players come along and try out futsal for the first time. From a personal level, it is just as pleasing to see new people come along and just try out the game.
Whilst we’ve had some success on the pitch, and it’s great, to be competitive and to win. The overarching philosophy around what we have done is not about just winning. It’s for people of all abilities to come together, get involved and be part of something bigger than just the competitive side.
What advice would you give to a person just starting or thinking about trying, partially sighted football?
Come and have a go. It can be really life-changing! It can give you opportunities that you might not have realised. You might find out about some other sports or other activities that are going on for blind and partially sighted people that you might not have even been aware of before.
A huge thank you to Mark for chatting with us and for the advice he has shared!
If you are interested in trying out some futsal training with the London Metro Futsal Club, or interested in volunteering, then please Contact: email@example.com or phone 07966260089
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