Matthew’s first match thanks to blind society

FOR most football fans, the thrill of going along to your first league match is an exciting occasion – a chance to take in the atmosphere and sample the highs (and the lows) of the beautiful game.

For 10-year-old Matthew O’Leary his experience was particularly special.

Matthew, of Briar Court, Love’s Farm, St Neots, was born with retinal dysplasia – a rare eye condition, which has left him with no sight in one eye and only 10 per cent vision in the other.

Until Saturday, November 10, Matthew, who is a Spurs fan, had been enjoying his football through BBC Radio 5 Live commentaries, but a meeting between his mum, Kimberley, and Hunts Society for the Blind took Matthew onto the terraces of the R Costing Abbey Stadium – home of Cambridge United.

United were taking on Macclesfield in the Blue Square Bet Premier – a game the home side won 2-0, with goals from Robbie Willmott and Tom Elliott – and Matthew was able to listen to the match through the club’s audio description service.

Mrs O’Leary, 31, told The Hunts Post: “Matthew was absolutely over the moon – so excited – to be able to go to a football match and sit so close to the pitch. We were in the second row with no-one in front.”

The trip was arranged after Mrs O’Leary met Erika Brown, of Hunts Society for the Blind, on the Action for the Blind People bus, which was in Huntingdon. After a visit with her and Matthew in St Neots, the society helped organise the United experience.

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A delighted Matthew, who attends Crosshall Junior School, said: “At the end of the match we were invited to meet two of the players, Sam Smith and Jonathon [corr] Thorpe. They were really nice and shook my hand and talked to me – it was really exciting.

“They then took me onto the pitch and I felt really special. I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience at a football match. Everyone made me feel really welcome. The staff were friendly and helpful and couldn’t do enough for us and I would definitely go again.”

And another visit to the Abbey could well be on the cards as Matthew has adopted United as his other team – although Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe will take a bit of shifting as his favourite players.

Mrs O’Leary added: “I would like to thank Cambridge United for welcoming us and giving us the opportunity to enjoy and the match. And a big thank you to Hunts Society for the Blind for giving us the information and chance to attend. Without them we would not have known about the audio description service.”

INFORMATION: Audio description is increasingly available at sports events, theatre performances, cinema and other events. Anyone is interested in learning more about audio description can contact Hunts Blind on 01480 453438.