Blind football wonderkid meets England boss

Grange Park boy has ambitions to play for national blind team

Mikey Poulli meeting England boss Gareth Southgate
Mikey Poulli meeting England boss Gareth Southgate

An Enfield schoolboy is dreaming of playing for England’s blind football team after meeting one of his heroes, Gareth Southgate.

Grange Park Primary School pupil Mikey Poulli is a lifelong football fan and talented player, but his sight began to deteriorate at the age of seven and he was diagnosed with a rare eye condition, rod cone dystrophy. With the support of his family, as well as his friends and teachers, Mikey has continued to develop his football skills and is determined not to let his disability hold him back.

Now aged eleven and registered as blind, Mikey is part of the Football Association’s disability training programme, through which he was able to meet England boss Gareth Southgate.

Grange Park Primary School has encouraged Mikey by allocating specific areas for him to play during breaks and lunchtimes and purchasing special balls with audible bells for all sports, so the physical education lessons are adapted to ensure Mikey can fully participate.

Mikey has even led a series of school assemblies on the theme ‘never give up on your dreams’, sharing his experience on losing his eyesight but still persevering with his goal of being a footballer.

Despite his disappointment that England did not take home the trophy at Euro 2020 this summer, Mikey was inspired by the outstanding performance of the team. He said: “Playing football is my favourite thing to do in the world, and I’m so proud of everything I’ve achieved so far. It’s great to have my own space to play at school with my friends, which means I’ve been able to teach them some of the tricks I’ve learnt through training.

“Euro 2020 was so exciting to watch, and I hope that one day I’ll be playing in a final for England.”

Grange Park headteacher Tijen Hassan said: “Mikey is a true inspiration to everyone around him. He continues to show such determination and resilience wherever he goes, and he has helped both the children and adults in our school really appreciate the true meaning of perseverance.”