Published 03 December 2021 6 min read
England Para Teams

Chilwell and Ramsdale take on Powerchair football...with mixed results

Written by:

Frank Smith

England Powerchair football team stars Jon Bolding and Chris Gordon introduce Chelsea's Ben Chilwell and Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale to powerchair football as part of International Day of People with Disability 

Two stars of the England Powerchair football team are hoping guest appearances from another Three Lions pairing can help take their sport to a new level.

England Powerchair captain Jon Bolding and goalkeeper Chris Gordon were joined by Three Lions internationals Ben Chilwell and Aaron Ramsdale recently as they look to introduce Powerchair football to a new audience.

Today, 3 December, is International Day of People with Disability and to mark the occasion, two of Gareth Southgate’s rising stars swapped their boots for a powerchair at St. George’s Park.

Bolding, Gordon and England Powerchair head coach Colin Gordon – Chris’ dad – gave Chilwell and Ramsdale a coaching session and took part in a number of exercise drills with the pair, which you can see in the video below.

Bolding said: “They both did well to be fair. Aaron was a bit better than Ben if I’m being honest. Aaron seemed to really enjoy it, with the speed and doing donuts and things like that.

“Like on the pitch, Ben was a bit classier and tried to do the right thing but it didn’t always come off. Whereas Aaron was a bit of a livewire.

“It seemed like Aaron and Ben really enjoyed it and they appreciated what we do so hopefully they can help spread the word of what the sport is about and allow us to take the game to the next level.”

Gordon added: “It was a credit to them how they embraced the afternoon. They probably walked through those doors not knowing what to expect. They’ve seen two wheelchairs and a ball which is a bit bigger than what they are used to and they were going into the unknown. But they really embraced it. It was great.”

Aaron Ramsdale impressed England Powerchair stars Chris Gordon and Jon Bolding
Aaron Ramsdale impressed England Powerchair stars Chris Gordon and Jon Bolding

Gordon has been playing Powerchair football for 15 years and started competing for England in 2011.

The 30-year-old is also player-manager at West Bromwich Albion, who have won the Premier League for the last three seasons and have also claimed the FA Disability Cup twice in recent years.

International Day of People with Disability is a chance to celebrate the challenges, barriers and opportunities for people who live with disabilities.

And Gordon explained: “I have a condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Basically the spinal cord is damaged and the messages do not pass through the muscles as they should and that causes the muscles to atrophy, to weaken, which means over time the muscles will get weaker.

“It has got to the stage where it has plateaued and I am stable but it has meant I use a powered wheelchair on a day-to-day basis, I rely on my chair to get about, I have an adapted car, I have adaptations in the house but those things are just there to help me live a normal life and I live as much of a normal life as possible.

“I am engaged, I have a house, a little dog and I try to live a normal life and football is my passion and my career now. 

“I have a business where we import the chairs that we play in from America and we distribute them around the UK and Europe. So powerchair football is my life, it is my career and I love the sport. I hope to be involved with it for a long time.”

Ben Chilwell was put through his paces by England Powerchair stars Chris Gordon and Jon Bolding
Ben Chilwell was put through his paces by England Powerchair stars Chris Gordon and Jon Bolding

As for Bolding, he is now in his 19th year of playing Powerchair football, with the 34-year-old initially being introduced to the sport because of a flyer at his school.

Since then, the Watford-based Aspire star has won seven Premier Leagues, seven cups and reached the semi-final of the European Champions Cup.

Bolding said: “I was born with a condition called Central Core Myopathy, which is basically I’m missing a chromosome which allows the muscles, mainly in my legs, to build like yours would. So growing up I always wore calipers on my legs and when I was younger I could walk a lot more than I do now. I used to play disability football with people who were on crutches or had no arms and things like that.

“My parents took me because I loved football but I couldn’t run, jump or kick the ball hard so it was more if the ball hit me then I could do something with it but other than that, I could never play in the way I wanted to.

“It broke their hearts watching me play but they took me because I loved football. So when powerchair football came along, it gave me the sport that I knew I wanted to play in football and allowed me to do everything that my brain was telling me I should do. 

“Since then I have played in Japan twice, I have played in Portugal, America, France and hopefully Australia next year. The sport has taken me to a place that I never knew existed prior to taking up the sport.”

In Gordon’s own words, England Powerchair had become ‘the nearly team’ after three runner-up places in World Cup finals but in 2019 they defeated the reigning World Cup champions France to claim the European Championship.

Jon Bolding has been playing Powerchair football for 19 years and has won multiple tournaments for club and country
Jon Bolding has been playing Powerchair football for 19 years and has won multiple tournaments for club and country

The latest World Cup was meant to be in October but is now scheduled to take place in Sydney next October due the Covid pandemic.

Covid paused the sport entirely for a while but England will be having training camps in the coming months before a friendly tournament with the other home nations in Northern Ireland in May.

Bolding said: “Playing for England is everything you wanted growing up. If you are an able-bodied kid, you grow up wanting to play for England and we are no different. 

“England is the highest level of our sport and I enjoy playing with all the lads and enjoy challenging myself against the best in the world. 

“Even after all this time, the passion is still there. I am 34 now so was a bit younger back in the day but as the sport grows, the competition gets harder and you still experience new things.

“My life changes as I grow up as well. I have a daughter and a wife now so your priorities change a little bit but your passion and the love for the sport is still there and while it is still there, I will always give 100 per cent.”

Chris Gordon is the player-manager of Premier League champions West Bromwich Albion and England Powerchair's goalkeeper
Chris Gordon is the player-manager of Premier League champions West Bromwich Albion and England Powerchair's goalkeeper

International Day of People with Disability is a day for celebrating people with disabilities and Gordon is hoping it could be the catalyst for more people becoming interested in disability sport.

When asked if there was anything he hoped people would do on International Day of People with Disability, Gordon replied: “There will be a lot of stories shared and I know when I had my story shared by the FA a year or two back, I had a lot of people message me afterwards after reading it. I am not the type to put myself out there normally but it was great to have the chance to speak to people.

“The key message is this is elite sport. We just want to live a normal life, we work hard and overcome challenges on a day-to-day basis so anyone reading articles that they find interesting, give it a like, give it a share and reach out to the person if possible and create a relationship there, build a line of communication and if they are generally interested in pursuing that any further, then get involved with the sport and help the sport progress. 

“People with different backgrounds and different passions and interests, if you can help those individual sports and teams progress then that would be fantastic.

“So I would encourage people to click, read or watch the video and article and if it is something you are interested in then don’t be afraid to take the next step and start that line of communication.”

03 Dec 2021 12:01

Chilwell & Ramsdale try out Powerchair football


Ben Chilwell and Aaron Ramsdale meet England Powerchair stars Chris Gordon and Jon Bolding