West Lothian footballer with sight-loss to play in FA's cup final
A Livingston-based footballer who lost his sight has made it to the finals of the FA Disability Cup.
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Neil Atkinson will play alongside his Scorpions Futsal Club teammates, who are set to take on Birmingham Futsal rivals in the partially-sighted football finals this weekend.
The talented 22-year-old hopes football fans from across Lothian will tune into BT Sports 1 on Saturday, July 17 to cheer him on.
This is the first time the tournament, which kicks off at 2.45pm at the FA’s St. George's Park, will be broadcast on national television.
Further coverage that includes enhanced audio description and British Sign Language will appear on BT Sports 3 and BT Sports Extra 1 to make sure people of all abilities can tune in.
"It’s the first time it will be live on TV,” said Mr Atkinson. “So it would be great if as many people could watch it to encourage BT to continue to cover it in the future.”
Mr Atkinson was diagnosed with the genetic condition Stargardt macular dystrophy at the age of eight which caused sight loss.
However, this has not stopped him pursuing his passion for football.
"We play a small sided variation of football called Futsal” he explained. “It's played on a hard surface court with a slightly smaller, heavier ball than a regular football, and is played with one goalkeeper and four outfielders.
“There are no adaptations to the sport from regular Futsal rules for visual impairments - no bell in the ball, eye shields, or post-tappers.”
Over the course of the July 17-18 weekend, BT Sports will also show four other football finals including, the Powerchair, Cerebral Palsy and Amputee cup finals.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland (RNIB Scotland) will be cheering Mr Atkinson on this Saturday.
The charity hopes this football tournament will demonstrate that people with sight loss can still play and enjoy sports.
Director of RNIB Scotland James Adams said; "We hope the FA Disability Cup will also help to raise awareness that people with sight loss can still play and enjoy sports and encourage moves to open up sport to those with a disability.
"With the right accessibility, many more visually impaired people might take up the opportunity to play sports."