Blind footballer Roy Turnham is turning to Tokyo

Roy playing at the blind World Cup Credit: Kenny Brown

Roy Turnham is a man of many talents. He’s a blind footballer who has represented Team GB at the Paralympics, has won national titles playing tennis and has even been a judge on a TV talent singing show. On top of all of this, he still finds time to play Goalball recreationally, a member of the Meryside club. Roy spoke to us about his sporting career as well as discussing Goalball.

Q: What sports do you play?
I’m Centrally contracted to the FA playing football that’s kind of my job at the moment. Alongside that I play blind tennis as a hobby and I’m also part of the Merseyside Goalball club.

Q: How did you get into them?
Well I’ve been blind since birth but despite that I’ve always been given opportunities to try different things. I was originally involved in Athletics, my first passion was always football, but there was no setup at the time. It wasn’t until my 20s that I got into blind football. Always played different sports, occasionally goalball but that was recreationally. Me, my brother and sister entered a team into a tournament actually. I also got into Blind Tennis as well.

Q:what level have you played at?
I’ve competed at the Paralympics for blind football, I won a national final playing tennis in 2017, I was picked for the international championships for Tennis but I couldn’t play due to football commitments. I enjoy [goalball] as more being a part of a team with people who I’ve helped take part in sport in the Merseyside area. It’s as much about the atmosphere than it is about the actual sport.

Q: What do you enjoy about sport?
Always been into football, Chelsea fan, always had a ball at my feet and it was such a passion that I got into it. I’ve been lucky enough to represent my country, doing a thing I love. But I was brought up that you don’t have to love one sport. Goalball for me is something that is incredibly inclusive, its very easy to setup a team and Goalball UK are also very supportive with what they do. Regular visits from the development guys have helped everyone make sure they know what they’re doing straight away. Having Goalball has allowed our club people to play a team sport together and along with cricket, those two sports have given satisfaction to a lot of our members.

Q: What do you enjoy about Goalball?
Goalball reaches out to all corners of the country, it makes it a lot easier for people to get their local clubs into leagues to find the right level to play at. The attitude is that the participation is the most important thing. Out of all the sports I’ve been in, the network and how its run at all different levels off the hierarchy grassroots to elite it’s a great model.
Difference between two organisations of football and goalball
The problem with football is the FA is trying to work to rectify mistakes that we made. The blind football league was taken over to some degree by the international setup and out less teams in to try and bring up the standards. Because of this we became alienated and it has now led to the gap between elite players and grassroots players becoming a lot bigger. There’s only one league in blind football unlike cricket and goalball. But if you flip that on its head then you know the Fa have given you the opportunity to make a living out of it when you are an international.

Q: Is that funding missing from Goalball
I think so, from my understanding its easier to fund a sport like swimming where you can have tonnes of athletes and multiple chances at winning gold medals than it is to fund omne team, two teams if its male or female with only the chance of getting two meals. You really have to prove that you can make it at that top level but you can’t work at that top level if you’re not getting the funding to do so. It’s a very vicious circle.

Q: Could Goalball compete with football?
I think its got the potential I think its hard to compare 2 sports and it has that advantage of being engraved in sport. I couldn’t do that (regarding blind football) and I think people really need to try goalball to understand how much skill it takes, the speed they throw the ball down is down is ridiculous, these guys are athletes, it’s difficult for somebody to try and block those shots, especially if you have never played.

Q: Could goalball become the number one sport in the Paralympics?
My view is in terms of putting something as a number one sport they must be inclusive. Every sport could be inclusive more and because of this goalball could be a flagship sport as they are ridiculously inclusive. Blind tennis could be on that level, I’m able to play with my girlfriend who’s fully sighted and it was a similar level due to adaptations.So it allows more and more people, even families to get involved ans the more people you have getting involved, the more chance you have at being number one.

Q: Looking ahead personally, the Tokyo Paralympics are around the corner, what is preparation like for that?
We have a the European Championships coming up this year and that is our qualification to get into Tokyo, we have to finish in the top two. However, what gives us confidence is we were the highest ranked European team in the last international tournament, we got beat by Argentina in the final but it still gave us confidence that we went that far.

Q: Outside of sport what else do you like to do?
I like to play the drums, music has always been a passion of mine, just last year i went on a 12 day tour with a band, it’s something where I could have gone professional, I have good contacts, a guy I know runs a studio who, if they’re looking for a drummer, he recommends me. Music is something that has never let me down and i can do it anywhere, even if it’s just me taking a guitar to a training camp, it could be something i do after football, people can sometimes get stuck when their careers are over so its definitely something I will continue to do.