Paralympic dream is reality for Martin

Martin Hickman is part of the Team GB Paralympic football squad
Martin Hickman is part of the Team GB Paralympic football squad

Lennoxtown man Martin Hickman will live the Olympic dream when the Paralympics football tournament starts way tomorrow (Thursday)

The 27-year-old is part of the Team GB squad who will be taking part in the football competition in Rio.

And it will be in at the deep end as the team take on football-crazy hosts Brazil in the opening match of the competition.

Martin, who works at KFC in Springburn, has played in three major international tournaments for Scotland but says this is his biggest competition yet.

He said: “When I joined the Scotland team I just missed out on London 2012 - in fact for my first training session the players involved were missing because they were taking part in the Olympics. That’s how close it was.

“When I heard about their experiences it made me want to be a part of it for myself.”

The matches will be played at the same venue used for the rugby sevens in the mainstream Olympics.

Martin said: “The competition is split into two groups of four and we are in the same section as Brazil, Ukraine and the Republic of Ireland with Brazil and Ukraine the top two seeds.

“Realistically, in the last two Paralympics Team GB has finished seventh out of eight so anything above that would be a success. But if we can get a result against one of the top two teams and qualify from the group I think we’d have a good chance of a medal.”

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“The games are seven-a-side and the pitch is smaller than a full-size 11-a-side but larger than the regular seven-a-side pitches you’d play on with your mates.

“The matches are actually being played at the same venue which was used for the rugby sevens at the Olympics so when that was on we were watching it a bit more closely than usual - just to make sure they weren’t cutting up the grass.”

Martin was born with cerebral palsy but says he has always tried to make sure he leads as normal a life as he can and his condition has improved over the years.

He said: “I drive a manual car and do as much as I possibly can to be as normal as anyone else.

“My condition has progressively improved through therapy but when I’m playing my movement is affected and I don’t have the same running patterns as other people.

“When I was younger I played with my pals but when I was 12 or 13 I joined Campsie Boys Club, but after a couple of years I gave that up.”

Martin, who went on to do sports coaching at North Glasgow College, plays on the left-hand side of midfield or defence and he and the squad have been preparing for Rio at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre.

He said: “I work at KFC in Springburn and they are really flexible with me. They have sponsored me by giving me an extra 12 weeks holiday a year which has allowed me to attend training camps and competitions.”