We are proud to announce that John McDougall, Birmingham Youth and Community Coach, has been named to the England football squad competing at the IBSA European Championships in Turkey (9-17 December). Not only is he competing for his country, he has also been nominated as Vice Captain for the tournament, which is a great accolade for John and for Street League.

Before he left for the tournament, we had time to grab him for a quick interview to ask him to share his story and explain more about the IBSA championships.

Interview with John McDougall, Street League football coach, December 2016.

How did you get this point now playing for England in the ISPA European Championships?  

“I play for a team called Birmingham Sports and we were playing in a national five-a-side tournament in Manchester and there was an England scout there watching the tournament and they were picking people to go to regional trials, that was in the north-west and when I got back I went to the Midlands trials and ended up staying involved in the system.”

Can you tell us more about the Championships and why you are excited about the opportunity?

“It’s a massive opportunity to represent my country. The tournament’s in Turkey, it’s the European Championships – which obviously means teams from all around Europe can compete in it – and it’ll be for world ranking points as well, so wherever we finish will go towards our world and European ranking as well. There will be six to eight teams, normally in one big group or two groups of four and then the semi-finals and the finals and that’s the format of it, so it’ll be a decent tournament.”  

How does it feel to be selected to play for your own country and also to be elected as vice-captain?

“It’s a very proud moment for me and my family as well. It’s something I aspired to be as a young footballer. There’s a responsibility attached to it as well. I understand that I am a role model, so everything I do I’ve got to lead by example and set the foundations for young players to aspire to be like me and my teammates, and then the standards that I’ve got to carry out through representing the FA and the country. I’m extremely proud.”

Are there any differences between the rules in the ISPA to those in the Premier League?

“If you watch the 11-a-side team with Wayne Rooney and players like that, obviously they’re playing 11-a-side football and everyone knows the rules of that. We play small sided football which is 5-a-side called Futsal, which is indoor football where you play to lines rather than the boards, so it’s still got a lot of 11-a-side rules, so you can go over head height and come in and out of the box and things like that. The only difference, though, will be about the goalkeeper – when he releases it from his hands it has to bounce in our half before it goes to the other end, so that encourages teams to play it out from the back and the thirds, rather than go from back to front quickly, so it does improve you technically and physically as well.”  

What are you most looking forward to?

“There’s lots of pluses! Travelling to and from in your England tracksuit, playing against top, elite athletes and putting yourself up against them technically and physically. You want to go all the way, compete and win things. Another big plus is singing the national anthem – it’s a really proud moment before the game starts. Being part of the team and going away from the country and you’re up against people who want to outthink and outplay you. The team mentality is a big part of it. We’re there to win. That’s our main goal.”

What lessons do you think you could pass on to other young footballers?

“I think standards. It’s easy to have goals, so our long-term goal is to go and win a gold medal, but for our youngsters their long-term goal is to get into work. To get there you have to have short and medium goals. So, for us, it’s to get out of the group – that’s what you need to do to get to a final. Our second goal would be to get to the final from there and win it. In terms of setting goals, it’s really transferable to a youngster. Whether they want to become a teacher, go to university or get a part-time job, they’ve got to aim for short, medium and long-term goals, which is really easy to transfer across. The other advice I could give would is to maintain those standards. You can’t, for example, be behaving badly when you’re representing England the FA. It’s the bigger picture and not just the here and now. You’re a role model and you realise that whatever you do is magnified so you have to be aware of what you’re doing.”

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Street League is the UK's leading sport for employment charity, that uses the power of football, fitness and dance to support unemployed young people into work. To find out more about our programmes all over the UK click here, or to see how you can help support Street League to end youth unemployment click here.

From all of us at Street League, we wish John all the best in the tournament and we'll keep updating you with the results on social media!

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UPDATE *** John's blog from the tournament

The teams involved were the hosts Turkey, world champions Ukraine, current European champions Spain, France and ourselves England.

Due to the fact we had such little notice for the tournament we could not meet up beforehand to train as a squad so our preparations at best were limited.

We arrived on the Friday after about a 15 hour trip leaving from Manchester stopping off at Istanbul eventually ending up in Antalya. On Saturday everyone had to do eye classification and register as a player using your passport. We also had a training session in the afternoon.

On Sunday the tournament started but the way the draw fell we would actually have our rest day that day. The big game of the day was Ukraine V Spain which ended up 3-1 to Ukraine. France also beat Turkey in a thrilling match 7-5. We again trained, went for a walk around the city to stretch our legs and on the evening started to analyse Spain before our opening group match in the morning.

Match day one

We woke up nice and early and had breakfast. Anyone with injuries would visit the physio for treatment and then the lads would go and pack their bags. We met down in the hotel reception two hours before kick off, then the coach would pick us up to make our way down to the stadium. Someone would normally put music on and get everyone's excitement rising. We had a good 30 minute warm-up before the hooter signalled ten minutes to kick off, indicating it was time to get into our playing kit. The referees came to knock on the door with two minutes left which prompted a final few words from the manager, team hugs and then off to line up in the tunnel. Referees lead you out to line up for photos and then the national anthems are played. We as a squad pride ourselves on all singing every word. We then shake all the hands of the opposition and get into a huddle with players and staff for a 20-second speech from our captain. Then it was kick-off!

The game plan from us was to allow Spain to have the ball and defend in our own half. We would hit them on the counter and attack when they were disorganised. This worked a treat. We soaked up lots of Spanish pressure and hit them on the counter. I broke down the middle had a shot saved by their keeper then it fell kindly to our striker who finished. We went into half time one goal up. Spain scored early in the second half and were looking good to possibly score again. Another break away from England lead to another goal probably against the run of play but still we were 2-1 up with six minutes left. Spain then had an attack which was blocked on the goal line by our captain who was making his 126th appearance to make him the most capped male English football. He was shown a straight red as the referee said he used his arm to block the ball. He was sent off which meant I was captain for the remainder. Our keeper saved the penalty and we defended as well as we could having been a man down. With a few minutes left Spain scored a second from well outside the box to level and we had a real job on our hands to hold onto the point. We saw it through and got the draw. It was the first time in five years that we managed to get a point from playing against Spain. Great performance from all involved.

Match day two - playing the hosts Turkey.

Turkey now needed to win this game to give them a chance of getting out the group. As our captain was suspended from the last game I led the boys out. It was a very hostile atmosphere. We both sang our national anthems and had the huddles. We went one up with a really well-worked goal, but they unfortunately equalised straight away. We scored again and we were well in control, but then let two really sloppy goals in just before half-time which meant we were going into the second half 3-2 down. We had an honest chat at half-time as a group and came up with a plan and way of playing in the second half. To give credit to Turkey, they defended really well and their fans played a massive part in getting them over the line. No more goals were scored and we also had our goalkeeper sent off in the game as it finished 3-2 to them. This result means we needed something off the world champions in our next game.

Match day three

Ukraine. A team that play full-time and most lads are over six feet tall. A really tough game ahead and through injury and suspensions were were down to six players from a possible ten. Our goalkeeper was making his debut and in all honesty the odds were stacked right against us. We set out to keep a clean sheet and outwork them. Our lads defended so well and hung in until half time at 0-0. Our manager was delighted and said more of the same. We dug in and ran the clock down to earn a point which kept our hopes of making the final alive.

Match day four

After our game yesterday, France beat Spain in a dramatic 5-4 game which meant we could not make the final, but if we beat France we would go into the bronze medal playoff. They rested their captain and we took complete advantage. They went one up with a mix up in our defence. After that we went to press them and took a 4-1 lead into half time. We carried on with the press and they could not live with us. I assisted five as we romped home with a 10-1 win. The players and staff were delighted to have a chance to avenge our group result against the hosts Turkey in the upcoming playoff.

Match day five

After five games in five days our lads were cover in cuts bruises and being held together by physio tape!

It was Turkey again, and after their group win over us they really fancied their chances and showed up in their numbers. A few little things before the game spiced things up and the stadium was rocking as kick off approached. We went and pressed Turkey from when they took kick off which they did not expect. Our captain won the ball back within ten seconds and played me in. I drew their keeper out and played in our striker who scored with 15 seconds on the clock. Our bench went wild as the Turkish lads dropped to their knees with head in hands. We broke a few times in a really well fought match and they went close once near the end but we managed to see it out and got the BRONZE MEDAL. Massive celebrations after the final whistle and into the night.

Ukraine beat France 5-2 in the final to take the gold. All in all a great tournament and lots of great mementoes and stories to tell. I would also like to thank everyone at Street League for their support and for allowing me to go and represent Street League and England.