A South Yorkshire schoolboy hopes to facilitate greater opportunities for others like him within football.
12-year-old Bryan Kilpatrick-Elliott – who isn’t an Owls supporter but is surrounded by friends and family that are – is living with right-sided hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy.
And although he holds his own for Fishlake Falcons every Sunday morning, the mainstream game is something which, in Bryan’s words, he “sometimes find(s) quite difficult” due to its physical demands.
On Saturdays, however, he travels across the M62 to Manchester, where he plays cerebral palsy football for a team called CP United.
The game they play differs from the mainstream version. It’s seven-a-side (across all age ranges), lasts for an hour and has no offsides.
There, Bryan, a midfielder, says he feels “more relaxed” and is “able to enjoy the game more”. His strengths include winning back possession, playing killer passes and scoring the occasional free-kick.
“It is played at a pace that all the team can handle, which makes it more competitive,” he adds.
It is, though, a three-and-a-half-hour round trip from Bryan’s Doncaster home, and one he has little option but to make after a York-based team – who were still based more than 40 miles away – fell victim to funding cuts as regional talent pathway centres became national ones. Often, funding is spread across pan-disability football, evading the CP game.
Luckily, he has a willing chauffeur in the form of his father, who is also called Bryan.
Not everyone is quite so fortunate, however. And many who are perhaps aren’t aware of such opportunities actually being available. Were it not for Bryan’s inquisition (researching CP football on Google and Youtube) and incessant pestering of his father to put in some phone calls (one to the captain of England’s men’s CP side, Jack Rutter, who pointed him the direction of self-funded CP United) it is possible that neither would he.
“Many kids with cerebral palsy are rejected by local clubs and some won’t take them on for insurance reasons,” explains Bryan’s father. “Some of them probably think there’s nowhere else for them to go.”
And it’s for that reason the pair are so keen to spread the word.
“If these kids have other kids that they can see doing it then hopefully that will get a few more involved and taking part in it,” adds Bryan Snr, who has accompanied his son to tournaments outside of England and to venues such as St George’s Park, Burton, the national team training base.
“The opportunities CP football offers are massive, once you’re in that world it’s such a lovely place to be.”