A trio of Paralympians from Ghana dropped in to inspire the next generation of sportsmen at Barnet FC’s training ground in Edgware last night.
Wheelchair sprinters Raphael Botsyo Nkegbe and Anita Fourjour, and paracyclist Alem Mumuni spoke to boys from Barnet FC’s Academy at The Hive, in Camrose Avenue.
Dozens of young footballers quizzed the athletes about competing at the top level and how they have overcome the adversity of their disabilities.
All three of the Paralympic competitors work alongside their training as they cannot make enough money from the sports they love.
The trio spoke about the difficulties of growing up in Ghana, from a lack of disabled sports equipment to the prejudices of some who believe their disabilities are contagious.
Road race cyclist Alem, who competed at Brand’s Hatch, told the boys that if they put their mind to it, anything is possible.
He said: “Determination, perseverance. These are the two words you need. If you set your mind to it, you can do whatever you want to do.”
Raphael, the first male athlete to represent his nation at the Paralympics, explained how he would travel for three hours by bus every week in Ghana to reach a track he could train on.
He said: “It is about what you can do, not what you can’t do, and that is the message we’re taking home with us.
“People have come to these stadiums not to talk about disability but to watch disability sports. We need to use this as a tool to let people know about disability issues and inspire the next generation to get into sport.”
The visit was arranged by tourism consultant Tim Hudson, who lives in St Brides Avenue, near to the training ground.
Mr Hudson and his wife Sally, who works for games organisers LOCOG, got to know the athletes and arranged the meet and greet as a final send off before they fly home today (Tuesday).
Mr Hudson said: “There is not a lot of press coverage for disabled athletes but everything these guys are doing is worth every inch.
“Hopefully these kids will realise the opportunity they have. If they can see how far these athletes have come with so many fewer opportunities than they have, hopefully it will inspire them to go further.”
The athletes were handed two boxes of shirts from teams in the Football League to take back to Ghana, as well as their own Barnet FC kits.
Nine-year-old goalkeeper Thomas Broadbridge met with the athletes as they signed autographs and spoke to the children after the session.
He said: “It was really good. We will never get this chance again. It makes me want to train harder and try harder myself. I want to be like them when I grow up and become a professional player.”