Joy for autistic Peterborough teen chosen to represent England in Futsal
An autistic teenager from Peterborough has become one of a number of Peterborough players chosen to represent England in a prestigious Futsal tournament in Spain next year.
Danny White (15), who lives in Bretton, will be flying out to Barcelona in January to link up with his teammates in the U-15 category after being chosen, following a successful trial, to represent the England team which will compete in the 2022 United Futsal Futures tournament.
The tournament is the most prestigious youth futsal event there is and will see Danny’s side take on teams from a host of top nations including USA, Brazil and Spain.
He will also get the chance to train with some of the world’s top coaches, meet some of the best players as well as exploring Barcelona, the city’s famous Camp Nou stadium, home to FC Barcelona, and playing matches at leading indoor venue Ciutat Esportiva de Blanes.
Danny, who was diagnosed with autism aged 10, has been playing football from a very young age but got into football around six years ago after being recommended to give the sport a try by a friend.
Futsal shares similarities with football but is played on a much smaller indoor court, with five players on each side and unlimited substitutions. Given the size of the court, the emphasis is usually on players to be faster and more skilful than in the 11-a-side game.
Danny said: “Playing futsal requires a lot of strength and speed, it is really intense and there is no time to relax. I didn’t know it was a thing when it was first mentioned to me but I was encouraged to give it a try when a grassroots team in the area was looking for players.
“I went to trials in Peterborough back in January or February last year for this tournament but Covid put the plans on hold. When I found out I had been chosen I couldn’t believe it, I still can barely find the words to describe the feeling, I am so excited and can’t wait.”
As well as having trials with Peterborough United and Norwich City, Danny has spent the last five years playing for City of Peterborough Futsal Centre, who train at Hampton Gardens School. COPFC operate teams from across a range of age groups and are the largest youth futsal club to operate under one roof in the UK. They are also the club in Peterborough to offer futsal specific training as their main focus.
Four squads of COPFC players represented England when the players when the event was last staged in 2020. The city club will again be responsible for many England players - aged from Under 8 to Under 15 in the 2022 tournament.
It was COPFC Head Coach Jade Ramm who encouraged Danny to work hard to earn the opportunity.
Danny has also been supported every step of the way by his mother Zoe Law, who will be joining him on the plane as his full-time carer.
She said: “I’m incredibly proud of him and can’t explain how excited I am.
“I encouraged him to get involved in futsal as a way of extra fitness and he has just excelled. From the age of 5, he has been obsessed with football and always had a ball under his arm. Away from the pitch, he has his anxieties, these have in fact been eased because we’ve recently found out that a friend of his, Max Jackson, will also be on the plane, so it won’t just be us and 50 other kids he doesn’t know but on the pitch though he is a completely different kid. It is where he feels more comfortable and feels no struggles or issues.”
Danny’s achievements on the futsal court are not the only reason for his mum and the Bretton community to be proud though. Last year, he battled through injury to cycle 500 miles in support of the Brotherhood Foundation to pay for a new defibrillator at local pub, Coopers. In 2018, aged 12, he also rallied a group of 20 people to tackle a severely overgrown footpath the council had neglected behind his home in Tirrington.
The final thing to arrange before Danny can get on the plane though is the money. He needs to raise roughly £1000 to pay for the flights, hotel and food for the ten day experience in Spain.
Danny has offered to forfeit his birthday and Christmas presents for life to get the opportunity to go but family friend Shaun Harley, Whittlesey Athletic Ladies Coach, has started a fundraising page to help him realise his dreams.
Zoe added: “Both Danny and I want to thank so many people for their support. His coach Jade has been great with him. She has always believed in his talents and pushed him to go the extra mile. She was the one that recommended Danny go for this opportunity.
“Also to the people on the Bretton Community Facebook page, they have been so generous and within three days of the page going live, we had got three quarters of the way to the target.
“Then finally, Shaun who is a good family friend and is so kindly leading the fundraising efforts for Danny.”
Anyone who wishes to donate to the JustGiving page to get Danny to Spain can visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/danny-white-futsal.