An amputee footballer who only took up the sport in the summer has been called up to the Great Britain squad.
Danny Hemsley plays for Brighton & Hove Albion Amputee FC - a team run by the Seagulls’ official charity, Albion in the Community (AITC) – and has become a key figure in AITC’s squad since its launch earlier this year.
He was part of the team that played their first-ever game against Arsenal on the pitch at the American Express Community Stadium and earlier this month took part in a pre-season tournament at Manchester City’s multi-million pound training ground.
The 39-year-old from Uckfield has now been named in the provisional 22-man Great Britain squad ahead of next year’s European Championships – quite an achievement considering he hasn’t even completed his first season playing the sport.
Mr Hemsley lost his leg just over 12 months ago when he tripped and fell through a glass table while helping a friend move furniture. He very nearly lost his life. “The table shattered and a large piece of glass went through my right leg and severed my main artery,” he explained. “I was losing blood fast and if it wasn't for my friend’s quick thinking in putting a tourniquet on my leg I wouldn't be here today.”
Surgeons spent five days trying to save his leg but ended up having to amputate above the knee. For Mr Hemsley, waking up to discover the severity of his situation was understandably hard to take in.
He said: “From being so fit and active all my life to suddenly being in a wheelchair with one leg was a real shock. I had amazing support from my friends and family and don't think I could have got through it without them.
“Out of all the things that I thought I would miss, the most was going to be playing football. My son was eight and we were always outside having a kick about. He was really getting into his football. To not be able to do that with him anymore was heart-breaking.”
Fast-forward just over a year and Mr Hemsley is on the verge of his first season as a Brighton player and relishing the prospect of training with the national team.
“Being part of AITC has given me a new lease of life,” he said, “Being on the pitch makes you forget all of your problems and worries. I feel very lucky to be given the opportunity to be part of the GB squad - I just hope I can do the Albion proud.”
Paul Brackley, disability manager at AITC, added: “We are all really proud of Danny’s international call-up. It is not only a great personal achievement but also fantastic recognition for the brilliant progress made by our amputee side since they started in April.”
AITC is now the largest provider of disability football opportunities in the area and runs 35 regular sessions across Sussex – attended by more than 300 people every month.
For more information on AITC’s amputee football team – or the charity’s other disability football clubs – email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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