England Blind Footballer and University of Salford student Azeem Amir talks about his 2020 Paralympic dreams and his growth in the sport.
Azeem Amir was born with no sight in his right eye but a slight light perception in his left, allowing him to see shapes and objects.
When Azeem was young, his family were given the option to send him to a mainstream school or a school that specialized in visually impaired students. But, his family pushed that with the right support and resources, he could attend mainstream school, so since primary school Azeem has learnt along able sided people and shown that being visually impaired holds no barriers.
At the age of 15, at the same time as his GCSE’s, there was a taster day for those who had disabilities to give them a taste of different sports they may not be aware of. When it was introduced, it was just a hobby for Azeem, not a career choice.
However, that changed when he was 17 and was old enough to take part in the national league, for a club called Merseyside Blind FC, and ever since he has been involved in the team.
Not long after, Azeem got the call in 2018 asking him to join the England blind football team.
“They had lads who had been training for 5 or 10 years, and then there was me, this little boy.
“It meant I had to develop physically and skills for playing, but when I came into the squad, I was welcomed really warmly.”
The growth and dedication of Azeem was noticed in November 2018, when the FA was asked him to star alongside big names such as Jesse Lingard, Ross Barkley, and Toni Duggan in their campaign ’21 Days of Positivity’.
The FA’s campaign seeks to improve touchline and on-pitch behaviour in youth football across the country.
The FA shows that 90% of young football players perform better with positive encouragement.
21 Days of Positivity asks coaches and parents to commit to being positive in their approach, and to share this positivity on social media with #WeOnlyDoPositive.
The promotion video was filmed in November 2018 when Azeem was playing a friendly match against Italy at St. George Park, the home of English Football.
“It was a big honour to share a platform like that with the three stars, and it was amazing to get the message across.”
Many have viewed Azeem’s story as inspirational, as he receives different messages from those who had read his story and watched his TEDxTalk, telling him he has allowed them to think a different way of the difficult challenges in life.
“I’m very lucky to share my platform where I can influence especially young people and in particular, those with a disability.
“Even if I can inspire or engage one person to think differently, its a great result.”
In summer, Azeem Amir will be heading to the Czech Republic, Argentina, and Italy to compete in big tournaments such as the Euro Championships.
The Euro’s are very important for blind football players because the teams that finish in either first or second will qualify for the 2020 Paralympics.
“That’s the aim, to train and develop to get to the standard where we can get to the final and smash it.”
A great feeling coming off the pitch with two big wins and finally my first goal in the English League! A top collective effort from all players and staff @Merseyblindfc in a memorable set of fixtures! The hard work continues with a big month ahead! ❤⚽ pic.twitter.com/MpK5xREJfY
— Azeem Amir (@Azeem_Amir99) 24 February 2019
Alongside his blind football success, Azeem is also a 2nd Year Business and Management student at the University of Salford, and is currently on track to finish his degree with a first.
“Aside from football, my education is in second place in whats important for me.
“To do the best for football and education is a showcase of those doing duel careers that its possible to succeed in both.”
If you’re interested in getting involved in a disability friendly sports, below are some sessions in Salford: