Many young people dream of playing football for England, and Jonathan Heenan is no exception - apart from the fact that he is! At just 25, Jonathan is building a successful career in football, turning professional in Sept 2013.
He plays in the FA England Blind Football Team and is currently training for the European Championships which take place in August 2015, followed by the aspiration of taking part in the Paralympics in Brazil in 2016.
The team trains at a brand new pitch at St George’s Park in Burton Upon Trent, which has been funded by the FA. He is based at the RNC Football Academy in Hereford, where he focusses on various aspects of football training. Blind Football is played on a solid surface, with 5 players in each team. Outfield players wear blindfolds, and the goalkeeper is fully sighted. The football contains ball bearings so that it makes a sound when it moves.
Jonathan is from Sheffield and his sight started to deteriorate when he was 13. He has Congenital Glaucoma, which is a condition that causes increased pressure in the eye. After losing his sight in the left eye, followed by the sudden loss of the sight in his right eye overnight at 16, he is now left with no sight.
He first became involved with SRSB when his Visual Impairment Rehabilitation Officer, referred him. He has used SRSB to access equipment, and for training to use a computer with accessibility software in our IT Room. He also learnt how to use a braille machine.
Cheryle is Jonathan’s Community Advice Officer at SRSB and he has a lot of praise for the service that she has provided “Cheryle was a massive help. The amount of knowledge that the Community Advice Officers have is priceless and the advice that they have given, especially with benefits has been invaluable. It is very hard to translate what you are experiencing onto all the forms that you have to fill in. It is all very complicated, so to have someone who knows what they are doing is really appreciated.”
He struggled with his diagnosis initially, as many people understandably do. He explains, “The first two years were hard, and I spent my time being bored and lonely. Then I went to college and I realised I couldn’t live the rest of my life like that. I wish I knew then what I know now. The sooner you get out there and take the time to learn about the technology that is available and learn what you can do, the better.”
He has now turned his life around and feels that he has been presented with lots of great opportunities and has received great support from many people. “Although it isn’t the best hand to be dealt, there is always someone else worse off than you. Everyone has bad days, but there is so much support out there. I am really enjoying my life and living it to the full!”
Jonathan has approached SRSB and would like to be involved in helping to act as a role model to other young people who may be going through what he experienced. We are looking forward to this development in his relationship with SRSB.