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Will Palmer: The Local England Deaf Footballer

Lauren spoke with England footballer Will Palmer to discuss his career so far, his ambitions to become a deaf advocate and representing his country at the upcoming European Championships this month.

 

Will was born profoundly deaf and has had a cochlear implant since being a toddler. Like most young boys, Will first got into football at his local park playing with his dad. “I was absolutely obsessed with it, and I never wanted to leave to go back home knowing I had school the next day.” Will’s dream of playing football became a reality with his career, taking him to Peterborough United, Stamford AFC, Yaxley FC and, more recently, Farsley Celtic DFC. “Playing at this standard is hugely demanding especially when I was just approaching 18 years old and playing amongst players in their 30s! It was physically demanding but I knew it was the right challenge I needed to prepare for senior football, and I always liked a challenge.”

 

Will’s career has also seen him compete internationally for England’s Deaf Men and Youth football teams. “I have been involved with the England Talent Pathway since the age of 11, and was with the senior team from 18 years old – I’m now 22! The amount of investment in support, coaching and mentoring the FA has given me is unbelievable and it is something I’ll be incredibly grateful for. I wouldn’t be the player I am today. The amount of advertising and promotion the FA has given to the para football teams is brilliant. We are getting recognition for our ability to perform on the pitch however that may be done, and it is deserved.”

Will Palmer (Photo: Signature)
Will Palmer (Photo: Signature)

 

Despite being with the England senior set-up for four years, due to coronavirus restrictions, Will only made his major tournament debut last year in the World Cup; where England bowed out prematurely to the USA before the quarter-final stages. “The standard of the deaf team is rapidly improving, that might not have been the case at the World Cup, but each player and staff individually are getting better, and it will only be a matter of time before it starts paying off. This wouldn’t be happening if it was for the world-class facilities at St George’s Park where there are over 30 football pitches.”


Will has played both deaf and general football and gives his insight into deaf football and how it compares. “Deaf football has the same rules with a few additional conditions. It requires a hearing loss to participate, and that level has to be more than 55dB in your best ear to become eligible to play. The referee has a linesman flag, so when they blow for a foul or halftime etc, they must wave the flag at the same time for us to visibly see and stop the game otherwise we’d be running around all day not knowing the game has stopped! The main condition that impacts us the most is playing with hearing aids or cochlear implants. Some of my teammates for England play with it on in general football so in a deaf game it shocks them at times!”

 

The England Deaf Senior squad heads to Turkey in the next fortnight for the 10th European Deaf Championships. Last month, the management team announced the squad, with Will selected as one of the 23 men. “It is a huge privilege to be in the Euro squad. We are more than capable of bringing back the European Championships and every single squad and staff member is more than determined to win it after our early exit from the World Cup last year. The hunger and desire are there for redemption.”

 

In addition to playing football, Will aims to become a role model for the deaf community. As an international footballer, Will had the opportunity to promote deaf awareness with the Football Association and collaborated with well-known players Jack Grealish and Ben Chilwell. “I think having the opportunity to film with the England players was surreal, especially when it’s to raise awareness for the deaf community and British Sign Language. They all seemed so excited and keen to learn BSL as well, which was nice. The amount of support I received from doing that collaboration was astonishing and it is something that I will continue to do.”

 

With an exciting month ahead and deaf awareness becoming more well-known in the mainstream, Will explains his ambitions for the future. “Personally, I am quite ambitious, and I always want the best for myself and England. I would like to become a leader within the squad and take this team to the highest level possible; as well as becoming a key and reliable player who performs consistently. We want to win every trophy we set our sights on.”

 

“Off the pitch, I have a big ambition of raising awareness for the deaf community and across deaf football. I want to be able to inspire the next generation of deaf footballers and provide a better insight to those who are unaware of the struggles and difficulties deaf individuals go through in their everyday life, and to make things more accessible to the deaf community.”

 

Further group stage games versus Scotland and Germany occur before the knock-out stages begin on 28 May.

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