A Derbyshire FA referee has represented England at the IBSA Blind Football European Championships held in Rome earlier this month.
55-year-old Andy Page from Ilkeston flew out on September 14 to referee the tournament, as one of two referees representing the country.
After retiring from being a Level 1 Referee on the Conference and National League, and a Football League assistant referee, Andy has now moved on to disability sport refereeing blind, partially-sighted and deaf Futsal.
Blind football is played with two 5-a-side teams. All players are blindfolded to ensure the same level of sight, and they play with a ball that has a sound system in it so it makes the sound of a bell when it is kicked. They have to call ‘voy’ - Spanish for ‘I go’ - to make their team mates aware of their position on the pitch, and as they go to make a tackle.
Earlier this year Andy went to Tokyo to officiate the Blind Football World Grand Prix. He now hopes the Rome appointment will set him up to be selected for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, so that he can look forward to be going back once again.
Speaking about his time in Rome, Andy said: “As the competition progressed I felt stronger and stronger in myself. England lost in the semi finals on penalties to Spain so the referee in me secretly hoped to be in the final on the pitch. As it was, I was appointed 3rd man to the final, Spain v France, and despite the initial disappointment, I would have took that at the start of the competition. Fingers crossed for Tokyo 2020 now.
“When I retired from the football league and was offered the opportunity to go into disability sport I never expected to get this far with it, but it’s just such a rewarding experience and the game itself is amazing to watch. I’d encourage everyone to check it out.”
Chairman of Erewash Valley Referee Society Pete Carter said: “This is a great appointment for Andy and he really deserves it. His passion for the game is evident and he gives each game his all so that disabled players can enjoy the game just like everyone else can.”
The games were live streamed from Rome, and you can watch them back on on the FISPIC YouTube channel.
Congratulations Andy on a brilliant appointment from The Referees' Association and we hope to be able to celebrate your appointment to the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.