ParalympicsGB has today confirmed the British athletes to compete in the five-a-side and seven-a-side football tournaments at the Games in September.
Britain will be represented in the five-a-side blind football for the first time by a 10-man squad including captain Ajmal Ahmed (Worcester), Andrew Briant (Birmingham), David Clarke (Harpenden), Lee Greatbatch (Worcester), Jonathan Gribbin (Oldham/ Abergavenny), Simon Hill (Wolverhampton), William Norman (Worcester), Keryn Seal (Berkley Alford, Worcestershire) and two sighted goal-keepers Jonathan Pugh (Hereford) and Daniel James (Exeter).
Britain’s five-a-side team earned its place at the Beijing Paralympics through the IBSA European Championships in Greece in September 2007 where the team won silver.
The British team will be captained in China by Ahmed, a 27-year-old who is originally from Liverpool but now lives in Worcester.
With four World Championships and six European Championships under his belt, Britain’s most experienced squad member is Clarke, a 37-year-old who will celebrate his birthday during the Paralympics.
The corporate banker, who works for Clydesdale Bank in Knightsbridge, represented Britain at the Paralympics in 1996 as part of the goalball team but has now been a key member of the England blind football team for many years and his first game in Beijing will mark his 100th international cap.
Clarke said: “I am absolutely elated to be representing Great Britain at the Beijing Paralympics. I have been working toward this moment for the last 14 years and to now know that I have made it is really special.
“We are immensely grateful to the likes of the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford and the FA for the financial and personnel commitments they have made to positively impact our training schedule.
"It really inspiring to know that when we step out on to the pitch to play China on September 7 we will be doing so with our best prepared and strongest squad of players ever.
"That day has particular importance for me as it will be my one hundredth appearance for my country, something I am so very proud of.”
Meanwhile the 12-man squad for the seven-a-side competition for athletes with cerebral palsy is made up of Michael Barker (Liverpool), Matthew Dimbylow (Cheshire), Matthew Ellis (Colchester), Richard Fox (Hemel Hempstead), Keiran Martin (Stirling), Jonathan Paterson (Motherwell), Greame Paterson (Duns), Jordan Raynes (Wythenshawe), Mark Robertson (Penicuik), Leon Taylor (Chaddesdon), Wayne Ward (Manchester) and Michael Wilson (Chelmsford).
Britain’s seven-a-side team earned their place at the Beijing Games, through the performance of England at the CPISRA Seven-a-Side Football World Championships in Brazil, where the team finished seventh to clinch the final Paralympic place for Britain.
Dimblylow said: “For me personally to be selected to go to the Paralympics is a high accolade so this is a dream come true.
"For the team overall we realistically think we can achieve a podium finish but then it may come down to the luck of the draw.”
Jeff Davis National Football Development Manager for Disability at the Football Association (FA), who has made a significant contribution to establishing the British sides, said: "Both squads have a massive challenge ahead.
"Great Britain Football has not competed in the Games for some time and has little experience, however I am confident they are well prepared and will be able to perform at the highest level."
ParalympicsGB Chief Executive Phil Lane, said: “ParalympicsGB is thrilled to be taking two football teams to the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games and therefore it gives me great pleasure to be able to name the squads who will travel to Beijing this summer.
“Britain has not fielded a seven-a-side football team at the Paralympics since Barcelona in 1992 and has never previously entered the five-a-side competition so it’s brilliant to be able to take both these squads to the Games to compete in what is one of one Britain’s best loved sports.
“I would like to take this opportunity to welcome these athletes to the ParalympicsGB team and congratulate them on their achievements to date.”
The Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games opens on September 6 and closes on September 17.
The football events at the Games take place at the Olympic Green Hockey Field.
The five-a-side tournament gets underway on September 7 and concludes on September 17, while the seven-a-side competition starts on the September 8 with finals scheduled for September 16.