As England continue to impress at the IFCPF World Cup in Spain, they’re also inspiring the next generation of CP players back home.
The Para Lions reached the last four of the competition on Sunday evening with a 4-2 victory over USA in the quarter final.
And as captain Matt Crossen netted a seven-minute hat-trick in Seville, a growing number of fans were watching the game and cheering on the Para Lions back home.
Among them was 12-year-old Bryan Kilpatrick-Elliott from Doncaster, who has had right-sided hemiplegia since birth and first discovered CP football when an online search saw him find clips of former England captain Jack Rutter in action.
“I was looking on YouTube a few years ago, because I thought there had to be something for CP footballers,” explained Bryan.
“I found Jack Rutter and saw some clips so I went and talked to my dad about it and he got in touch with Jack, who directed us to a CP team and it’s just gone from there.”
Since then, Bryan’s football journey has continued and he now plays for CP United and the England talent pathway squad, where he regularly sees many of the Para Lions squad at close hand.
“When Bryan first started at eight or nine and played mainstream football, we found it quite hard to find a mainstream team for various reasons,” added his father, also called Bryan.
“Clubs weren’t keen on taking kids with a disability but we managed to find one and Bryan made a great group of friends and really enjoyed it.
“But he always wanted to be in a team in which he could compete and be more comfortable with, and he was the one who found the clips of Jack Rutter playing for the England team at the World Cup at St. George’s Park in 2015.
“That all led to where we are now. CP United are based in Manchester and we live in Doncaster so it’s a three-hour round trip every Saturday to access CP-specific football.
“But it’s worth every mile because he’s playing competitive football with kids that have come from similar backgrounds and experiences.”
In the two seasons he’s played with CP United so far, Bryan’s confidence has blossomed and also seen him receive opportunities to train on a national level with the England talent pathway set-up.
He even travelled to the Netherlands last summer to see England in action at the Euro Finals, when he was a mascot for one of their games.
“I enjoy it a lot,” added Bryan, who lists Crossen, goalkeeper Giles Moore and CP United duo Jordan Twiss and Ethan Stone as his favourite players.
“It really helps my confidence, now that I’m playing with kids who have similar backgrounds and it’s really good to play against kids who I can compete with.
“I try and watch them [England CP] and speak to them when I can. In Holland, I managed to even play with them in training and that was great fun.
“It was great to go over there and I really enjoyed it.”
Bryan has since taken it upon himself to help promote CP football and raise awareness for the sport.
Last year saw him organise a fundraising day for Cerebral Palsy Sport at his school and he also became the first-ever youth ambassador for the IFCPFC.
And for Bryan Senior, it’s really encouraging to see more and more youngsters with CP drawing inspiration from the Para Lions and the growth of the sport.
“We’ve watched all of the World Cup games so far, and the lads are doing exceptionally out there so it’s great to see,” he said.
“With the amount of social media activity and people online commenting about the games, there’s a real support for the team.
“And for Bryan and the youngsters at CP United, they’re all growing together and to see two of the CP United players in the England squad and playing against the likes of Germany, Brazil and the USA in a World Cup is amazing.
“They are sharing a changing room with them for training on a Saturday so it shows how quickly it can escalate if these lads work hard.”
You can follow Bryan on Twitter via @BryanJunior2006FIND OUT MORE ABOUT PARA FOOTBALL IN ENGLAND