Alder Hey physio assistant Ben makes his debut for inspirational England footie team
4 months ago
Ben Meadows has made his debut for the England Cerebral Palsy Development Football Squad after refusing to let the condition stop him from following his dreams.
As a young boy Ben, from Old Swan, was determined to do everything his mates did, in spite of being born with the debilitating condition.
And it means he’s achieved his goal of playing football for his country.
Ben, 22, a physio assistant at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, says: “I always wanted to give everything a go and not let CP be a barrier.
“It was an attitude that came from my parents, that although I knew I had the condition and it could affect me physically, it shouldn’t stop me doing anything. I would push through and see what I could do, rather than standing back and saying ‘I couldn’t’ or ‘I can’t’.”
And Ben says: “To have played for England made me, and my family, so proud.
“I couldn’t believe it when they told me I’d been selected to play earlier this summer against Scotland. It was a great experience for me and, although the score wasn’t great – we lost one game 4-1 but drew the next 4-4 – I thought I played well and I’m happy with what I’ve achieved.”
And he says he’s delighted to be a good role model for the young patients he works with in the community physio team at the Liverpool children’s hospital.
“I can speak from experience when I say you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.
“Alder Hey helped me so much as a child which is why I wanted to be a physio to help other kids like me.”
Ben was around 18 months old when he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, the name given to a group of lifelong conditions that affect movement and co-ordination. It’s caused by a problem with the brain that develops before, during, or soon after birth.
Ben also has right-side hemiplegia which causes weakness in his body, mainly his arm and leg.
It could have meant he lived life on the sidelines, allowing his disability to stop him living it to the full. But that was something the former Broadgreen International School pupil was never prepared to do.
“There were things I struggled with, but I was raised with the view that I tried everything, and I would adapt,” he explains.
“And that was never a negative.
“If you try things and it doesn’t work – you’ve still tried it. Then you can just go away and try something else. And it’s better to try something new than regret not doing it at all.”
Ben became interested in sport at around nine or 10, first swimming – ‘an important skill according to my mum’, he smiles – but it was an invitation by a neighbour to go along to a footie taster day at Liverpool Foundation that led to a passion for the game.
“I was at that age when every boy or girl wants to be a footballer. For me it was like, ‘I’m playing for Liverpool’. I loved it.
“And it was the social side too, being involved around other players and teammates who had difficulties like me.”
Ben played in a number of positions before being asked to be a goalkeeper, a role in which he excelled. He started training for England Cerebral Palsy team’s under 21s – which is now England Cerebral Palsy Development Football Squad with players from 15-24 – at 14, and this summer he was asked to play his first game.
“It was surreal to be honest, to put on that England shirt,” he says, “but I thought, this is my opportunity to show them how good I am at international level.”
Ben is hoping to be selected again for the World Games in Portugal in November – ‘that’s like our Euros’ – but he admits: “At that level, you never know what’s going to happen, but fingers crossed I get picked. That would be fantastic.”
Until then Ben will continue to train and play in Manchester for Cerebral Palsy United, and with the England squad, and coach younger players for CP United in Croxteth, proving to patients at Alder Hey, where he is working towards becoming a fully-qualified physiotherapist, that the condition doesn’t stop you achieving your goals.
He says: “I had always wanted to be a physio, so I could do what all the Alder Hey physios had done for me when I was growing up for other kids.
“I can now pass that on, and speak from experience when I say cerebral palsy does not have to be a barrier to living your life.”
Ben is training harder than ever now to be in with a chance of the World Games in Portugal, but he says: “Being in the dream job I have always wanted to do, and playing for England, I have reached my goals. Now anything else is a bonus.”