Each Spirit Can Be Lifted. All Beliefs Will Be Saved.

This blog isn’t about football or spirituality. But, it is about disability rights, and wants to help disabled people become a stronger team that proves its worth. One well-known fact is that a momentous, professional spirit will lead to success for any group of individuals.

Events which occurred on a football field seem to relate so much to how disabled people should collaborate with strength than we have in quite some time. And that’s why I’m going to refer to Manchester United’s 1 – 0 win over Omonia Nicosia in football’s Europa League competition.

A Lack of Confidence Seemed to Exist

AC Omonia is a football club from Cyprus who play in the top division of the Cypriot football league. They’re currently fifth in their league, haven’t been in great form this season, and after qualifying for the Europa League are at the bottom of the group with zero points in five games. I’m quite a firm football fan, but had never heard of the club until Manchester United’s fixtures were announced a little earlier this year. In Europe’s official football club rankings, Omonia ranks at #198.

Man Utd only just qualified for the Europa league after coming sixth in the 2022’s English Premier League. Our performance received major criticism in the 2021/22 season, and since then Utd has hired new Dutch manager Erik Ten Hag. We’ve made some new, expensive signings since, and the team’s performance has improved too. In Europe’s official football club rankings, Utd ranks at #19.

However, the Man Utd squad have struggled to score many goals during matches. We’ve won ten games, lost four, and drawn twice this season. 17 games and 26 goals; it could be more impressive. It’s quite frustrating for a fan like me to say that after the same number of games, Manchester City has scored 48 goals.

That’s the Spirit

I believe a lot of players lack confidence in front of the goal at the moment. Cristiano Ronaldo is world famous for his goal-scoring abilities, and has hit 701 club goals in his career. However, despite being our club’s top-scorer last year with 24 goals, he’s only scored three goals in 14 appearances so far under our new manager.

Less than three years ago, we were in the same European competition and beat Club Brugge 5 – 0 in the knockout stage. The Belgian team have a multi-year history of a vicious rivalry with Anderlecht in their home country for the top spot in Belgium’s top league. The club is currently ranked #39 in Europe. But, Man Utd is one of the biggest football clubs in the world, and defeating them by that margin didn’t seem very unusual.

Credit to Man Utd Women’s Team; they’re top of the UK’s Women’s Super League

We’re often getting so many goal-scoring chances in games (particularly in Europe) but not scored them. We had to wait until the 93rd minute of the match for midfielder Scott McTominay to score Utd’s winner in stoppage time. It was our 34th shot at goal.

After that, Man Utd also drew 0-0 against Newcastle, 1-1 against Chelsea, and won 2-0 against Tottenham. There aren’t many goals involved. Is this all a coincidence? I don’t think so.

But What’s This Got to do with Disability?

Well, Omonia landed in Manchester and 4,500 away fans followed them, with a passion to show support to their team. The supporters didn’t lack confidence. There weren’t many Cypriots in Manchester, but those who were there immediately expressed positive spirits for the team they supported within the city. Even if they didn’t expose what you might call an ‘elegant persona’, that night, they gained attention from the public when standing up for something they believed in.

In the late 80s and 90s, I know there was another group of people who also expressed passionate spirits and supported something much more important than a football team. Disabled people believed they had every right to gain attention in the early 1990s. Public transport was practically inaccessible for so many disabled people, so when protesting they handcuffed themselves to buses and pulled themselves under vehicles to prevent them from moving.

Plus, I’d say the disabled people were always a lot more elegant than the football fans – wouldn’t you?

The Happiest Fans Praised Great Efforts

One week earlier, Utd beat Omonia 3 – 2 at their home stadium in Cyprus, another game in which we won the game by just a single goal. The home team scored first in Cyprus, and I remember being frustrated by the fact we had to wait until the 53rd minute to equalise, and the 63rd to take the lead. Once again, we had many chances to score that night, but various players missed good chances (including Cristiano Ronaldo).

But teams are always a lot more likely to win by many goals when playing at home. Supporters will chant loudly for Man Utd at Old Trafford – and over 70,000 of them will celebrate when we score.

Cyprus has a population of around 1,250,000 people – their international side isn’t very impressive

But that night led to Utd’s team and home supporters being taunted by Omonia’s supporters for most of the match. Frustration gathered and tension raised among the home crowd until we won the game so late. Man Utd is famed for scoring winning goals late in games.

Omonia didn’t win the match, and I believe it was because the home fans and players gained more spirit and believed another late goal could well win the game for us. However, Cypriots left the stadium feeling much prouder of the away team than the home supporters. Their team’s players, who put in such a great effort that night, defensively stopped so many more talented players on pitch from immensely overpowering them.

So, think about it. What other group of people can significantly impress others with strong efforts, despite lacking some abilities when doing their job?

If they put their mind in the right place, I certainly believe disabled people have the talent to stop people who have more abilities from overpowering them, too. I only believe we need to look back at the past. What do we lack now that existed thirty years ago?  

1995 Disability Discrimination Act

Eventually, disabled people overpowered the Government and gained the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act. People showed noble spirit in the streets to fight for our rights. We grouped up in larger numbers, and as we got to know one another, we gathered a belief that we could all convince the Government to offer us all more human rights.

After gaining the spirit and belief in one another, I’d say that more spiritual belief existed during that era. Whether you consider it to be Godly-experience or not, it was a positive one, and regaining it would only work to disabled people’s advantage.

We need to rebuild up our strength with confidence

Although real disabled people are in a more stressful place, if you look back at the Man Utd vs Omonia match, you could arguably label the Cypriot side as the team with disabilities compared to the opposition. They’re all being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds less than Utd’s players. They are the side who lacked as many abilities as opposing players on the field. Still, they knew how to put in the effort in the workplace. They then rightfully received plenty of praise for their achievements.

It’s been difficult to find work in the past, but, when I’ve had a job, I’ve worked hard for my equal opportunities employer. As time continued, my continuous efforts impressed Lloyds Banking Group when working as a temporary data-entry processor. They kept me on board for two-and-a-half years.

It’s Time to Talk

Of course, I don’t know the answer to everything. Nobody knows how to deal with all issues for disabled people now. And that’s why it’s time to talk to each other in an informal but intelligent manner.

We’ve got a major project on our hands here. I think the only way to start with it is by constructing many smaller projects for groups made up disability activists to deal with.

Some of these groups could try to find attention by using disability arts. A picture speaks a thousand words, so a project which plans out exhibitions is one more minor project to construct. Plus, hearing lyrics that speak about our problems in decent songs could work well too, so another project could focus on arranging gigs.

And, of course, using arts to gain attention isn’t the only option. One project may focus on gaining more disabled people’s members by contacting various community groups around the country. Another project might involve setting up campaigns. As mentioned in my previous post, I think we should try to talk directly to non-disabled people about the social model of disability, and how we wish to be treated.  

A Little Project Management Info

Informal project management can be very effective. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr. were all unofficial project managers, and all exploited their strengths to make an enormous impact on society.

There are four foundational behaviours to grasp if you want to be a decent project manager:

First, you’ll want to demonstrate respect to every person who is involved in your project. Talk to them about what work they’re involved in, and offer them feedback too. Critical feedback is a useful tool as well. If something’s not quite right, you shouldn’t shy away from speaking to them about any issues they’re responsible for. You’re only considering them to be a part of your team, and what you tell them will be a useful comment later.

You should also listen first to what each project member has to tell you. As mentioned, no one person has the answer to every problem that’ll occur when you’re managing a project.

Clarifying expectations isn’t easy, but it needs to be done. You cannot just set members a single task which doesn’t alternate from beginning till the end. If you choose not to update them on what expectations exist, their minds will wonder how involved you want them to be in your project. They need to feel like they’re a part of your group to gain the confidence to make genuine efforts. Make sure they’re aware of how they make a difference.

The final behaviour to remember is that it’s important to practise accountability. Now, we want to clarify that the days of declaring, ‘do what I say, not what I do’ are dead and buried. It’s important to walk your talk, but monitoring the actions of other individuals is always important too.

Get Organised and Remain Energised

The people I want to group up with are going to hold on to beliefs that we can rebuild something bigger-and-better than before for disabled people. My previous blog spoke about the idea of starting a new disabled people’s organisation in the UK. The United Nations have criticised the UK Government for not funding our needs enough in the past. However, if this is the case, we’re not raising enough awareness of our difficulties, and the public no little about our issues.

We’re not the only people who haven’t received much help from the Government recently. However, four million disabled people are in poverty, and we need to find the light at the end of the tunnel. A new system must develop, so people know more about who we are, what problems we have, and feel more comfortable spending time around us. It’ll take efforts, but if we put these in, they’ll know we’re people who will make efforts and offer us more attention and support as well.

One thing we need to remember is that despite having to live with our disabilities, they will help us find our own original attention gaining abilities if we work hard enough to receive them.

Recently, more disabled people have used these abilities to entertain via the media. This includes people who are comedians, actors, musicians, and artists.

However, collaborative project work will help us make the biggest difference. I’ll make sure we get more people and the media are looking right at us in the future. Plus, unlike in the 90s, we won’t scare away the non-disabled.

One Final Update

On 27 October 2022, Man Utd played the less talented Moldovan side FC Sheriff at Old Trafford. Although FC Sheriff put in a good defensive performance throughout the game, Man Utd scored just before half-time and went to win the game with a decent 3-0 victory. Sheriff also showed they had abilities too, and I’d say supporter’s from each club were satisfied with their side’s performance. It was a fair result.

Man Utd Ladies Development Squad vs Aston Villa Ladies by Michael Ripley
Cyprus – Wales 0 – 1 by George Groutas
Cuts Kill: Disabled People Agains Cuts by Andy Howell
Sketchnote project management by Luigi Mengato