England's Deaf Women's Football Team heading to World Cup in Malaysia thanks to help from Essex man

Hands up if you're going to Malaysia!  England Deaf Women's Football Team of Great Britain Deaf Women's football team celebrating the bronze medal trophy from the World Cup 2016
England Deaf Women's Football Team celebrating the bronze medal trophy from the World Cup 2016 Credit: GB Deaf Football

The European Championship-winning Lionesses won't be the only ones heading to a World Cup this year - their deaf counterparts will too.

While the Lionesses will be fully funded by the FA to travel to the tournament being held in Australia and New Zealand, it was a different story for the England Deaf Women's Football Team.

They had to raise £50,000 by the end of June in order for them to attend the World Cup in Malaysia.

They had to set up a GoFundMe organised by Simon Harris, a social media manager from Essex, for expenses including hotel deposits, to secure rooms for the event in September.

Speaking after the team surpassed its target on Monday, player Claire Stancliffe from Northamptonshire said the news took a while to sink in.

The 34-year-old, who plays centre back or central midfielder, added: “I had to go on the GoFundMe page to make sure it was real.

“It just felt like this huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and when the team found out, it was a really nice feeling – there was a lot of chat, a lot of excitement and a lot of motivation to do well in September.”

Mr Harris, 39, who happened upon the team’s campaign on social media, celebrated the news on Twitter.

The £50,000 was reached within a 12-day period, which Ms Stancliffe said was “unbelievable”.

“We didn’t expect it at all,” she added.

A £15,000 donation from Frank Hester OBE – the founder of healthcare technology provider TPP – played a big role in tipping the team over the £50,000 target across both fundraising pages.

“I never expected that,” Ms Stancliffe said.

“I think the key thing is that it doesn’t matter how much is donated – every donation counts, even if it is a pound, it really makes such a difference.

Some famous faces who have donated to the team’s fundraising pages include ex-footballers Gary Neville and Steven Gerrard who donated £5,000 each, sports pundit Gary Lineker who donated £1,000, and ex-Love Islander Tasha Ghouri, who herself is deaf and donated £200.

Former Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard donated £5,000 Credit: PA Images

“It reinforces the amount of support we have,” she said.

“People want us to go to (Malaysia) and they believe that we have the right to go.

“And I think it’s also important to show that there’s 12 million people in the UK with hearing loss – that’s one in six people.

“And it’s such an isolating disability that I think the more awareness this conveys, the better.”

Speaking previously to PA, Ms Stancliffe said it was “just amazing” to see support from high-profile football stars.

“They were players that I watched when I was growing up,” she said. “Steven Gerrard donated and he was my hero; he was my role model.

“For those three people that I’ve seen on TV to show support for the team that I play for, I don’t think there’s words you can say really.”

Ms Stancliffe added that the team had had its first trial last Sunday and there was a “fantastic” turnout.

“The quality was really high and there’s a lot of excitement there,” she said.

“We’ve got our second trial on 4 June and from that, the head coach will select a training squad to attend the training camp leading up to the World Cup, with the squad playing in the championship being published between mid-July and the end of July.”

As for the championships in September, she said she was most looking forward to “getting out there and competing for our country”.

The fundraisers are still accepting donations, with money raised going towards expenses include training camps and flights.