Matthew Ellis is not your ‘average’ international footballer, and this September will travel to Beijing.
Matthew Ellis is not your ‘average’ international footballer. The 28 year old made his England debut for the Cerebral Palsy team when he was 25, taking part in the CP World Championship in the USA where The Three Lions finished eighth.
This September, Matthew will travel to Beijing to represent Great Britain in the Paralympics, an experience he told TheFA.com he still can’t quite believe.
“There is a certain irony that by having Cerebral Palsy I’ve travelled the world and experienced things that I would never have done otherwise, as my football skills wouldn’t have been good enough at Premiership level” said Matthew.
“I was a relative latecomer to CP football as it wasn’t that well publicised. Like a lot of the lads, I never dreamt I’d end up representing England at international level.”
The FA currently supports seven national disability squads, and under the direction of National Disability Development Manager Jeff Davis, there is now a growing pan-disability grassroots structure for players.
“My involvement came about through frustration really” continued Matthew. “I had played football at university and after I googled ‘disability football’, found out about Colchester United’s pan-disability team.
“Voted Player of The Year at Colchester, I got speaking to Steve Bartlett who at that time was also the England Head Coach, and from there I had a trial with The Three Lions.”
Matthew wasn’t diagnosed with cerebral palsy until he was 2 years old, having been starved of oxygen during birth.
“Getting involved with the England team really did change my life. I was keen to play for a mainstream Saturday or Sunday team but my confidence was low as I walk with a limp, and I thought other teams would sledge me as a result.
“My job involves long hours and client entertaining, but for the last 12 months, Craig Boyd [England U21’s Fitness Coach] has given us all individual training programmes. I’ve never been fitter and now I play for my company and at the weekend in the mainsteam Colchester District league too.”
By day, Matthew is an Aviation Insurance Broker, working for AON in the Lloyd’s of London building. Fluent in Spanish and with a Marketing degree, his role sees him specialising in working with some of Latin America’s biggest airlines, with regular trips to the region.
“If you speak to a lot of people and they hear the term ‘disabled’, their instant reaction is to pity you. My job is certainly different and helps to turn some of those perceptions right around, and then when you throw in the fact I play football for my country, it all sounds a bit unreal!”
And as for Great Britain's chances in Beijing? "The draw for the tournament will be unseeded, so it really could be down to luck as to whether we escape some of the top teams, or end up in the 'group of death' said Matthew.
TheFA.com will be following the progress of the CP and Blind squads when they kick-off their campaigns in Beijing in September.
International Cerebral Palsy football is played in a 7-a-side format, with the normal on-field formation being a 3-2-1 formation. There two halves of 30 minutes each, there is no off-side and players are allowed to roll or throw the ball back into play to aid players with hemaplegia (paralysis down one side of the body).