Games give disability sport hope for future

LEAVING A LEGACY: Matthew Ellis
LEAVING A LEGACY: Matthew Ellis

THE underlining aim of London 2012 was always to ‘inspire a generation’ and seven-a-side footballer Matthew Ellis revealed he was honoured to be part of a Games that he believes will do just that.

The 33-year-old was an unused substitute in his side’s eventual 3-1 extra-time victory over the USA on Sunday as Paralympics GB clinched a seventh-place finish on the last day of competition to send the home fans inside the sold-out Riverbank Arena away in a positive spirit.

Although it may not have been the fifth-place minimum finish the host nation were aiming for, Ellis, who is from Elmswell, but lives in Miami, refused to be disappointed about the side’s display as he believes their contribution in the competition was always far more important than sporting success.

“For us it was more about giving a positive display and giving a good account of ourselves to help give disability football a strong platform in the future,” he said.

“Hopefully by playing in this competition we can help inspire young players to see that it is not just about elite sport and there are opportunities for players with disabilities.

“You have seen how fantastic the crowds have been and just walking round at the end and seeing some of the youngsters faces and especially young disabled kids it shows them that there is something out there for them in the future and that is why it has meant a lot to us that we can try and be some sort of inspiration for them.

“These games have raised the profile of Paralympians and even if people are just getting involved in sport to stay healthy and fit as a result of these Games then that is important and that is the real legacy, not just elite athletes, but something for everyone to enjoy.”

With the curtain coming down on London 2012 and a sensational summer of sport all but at an end, the nation can look back on a glittering period of success that won over even the most cynical of doubters.

Ellis, who conceded he has considered retirement from the sport, was delighted to be part of the once in a lifetime opportunity of a home Games but doesn’t believe the magnitude of the occasion will truly sink in for some time yet.

“It was a complete honour for me to be involved, and it really brought it home when you saw the crowds,” he added.

“However I don’t think it will truly sink in until we all go away from here and look back to how big it really was.

“When you are in the moment and in the bubble you don’t realise how truly special it was for everyone, the crowd, the athletes and the nation as a whole.”