Great Britain Deaf Football: A fascinating and colourful history

GB has a very rich football history spanning back to 1924 where they participated in the First International Games in Paris 1924. Although they lost 2-0 to the French hosts, they captured gold at the second attempt in Amsterdam 1928. It is interesting to note that one footballer who was injured, insisted on taking part in an athletics race that he hobbled around the track in last place!

Nuremberg 1931, saw their title wrested away in bizarre fashion for the players had “overslept” in their match against Czechoslovakia! It is a story well worth following but at the same time it must have been gut-wrenching for the then World Champions – indeed a nightmare instead of a dream! However, it must have steeled both their resolve and determination for Great Britain went on to win three successive golds from 1935 till 1953 (a span 18 years helped by the war) when they were no match for Yugoslavia that won five titles on the trot, a feat that may never be bettered.

GB had to wait 36 years before tasting gold again in the Christchurch 1989. Both the Manager, Glyn Rosser and the GB Captain, Steve Hardwick, were awarded MBE’s.

It took only one single group match to effectively end GB’s quest for the gold at Sofia 1993 – GB had two players sent off in a 1-0 defeat against Belgium. These were the days where there were only three teams in a group therefore conditions were unfavourable for GB. This was followed by years of darkness, GB missing out on the 1997 and 2001 Deaflympics thanks to their failure in getting past the qualification stages. The decline of British football was halted in 2000 when the new GB Management team both arrived and injected fresh blood to the whole set up. Although also missing out on the 5th Europeans in Sheffield by disqualification due to funding difficulties, GB gradually eased back into the reckoning, and showed what a tremendous force they were in winning all six matches at the 2005 Melbourne Deaflympics and gaining the gold. A magnificent feat for nearly all of the players did not come across any competitive matches at all. GB have gained an automatic passport into the next Deaflympics in Taiwan 2009.

On the Europeans, GB have only managed to reach the finals on only one occasion in Ghent 1991 where they finished fifth overall. GB declined to participate in the 1st Championships in 1977. The next two Championships saw GB fall at the qualification stage, and Sheffield 2002 was a financial disaster. Now that GB have comfortably eased past Sweden in the qualifications, this is a record that we are aiming to remedy in this year’s 6th competition, Lisbon 2007.

GB could boast that they have been around longer than the British Deaf Sports Council which was formed in 1930! A book on Great Britain’s colourful history will be written in the hope of being released before the 2009 Taiwan Deaflympics, and it should be an intriguing read!

Written by Phillip Gardner, GB Men’s Manager