Joe Roper could make his debut for the Men’s Great Britain Goalball Team at a tournament in Budapest this weekend.
The 19-year-old from March in Cambridgeshire, is going to his first tournament with the squad.
Roper, who is a student at The Royal National College for the Blind (RNC), will be joined in the squad by his big brother and one of GB’s star players, Dan Roper.
The tournament begins on Friday 26 January and Joe revealed it was his brother who inspired him to start playing Goalball.
He said: “After seeing my brother rise through the ranks and compete internationally, I was inspired to take up the sport myself. Goalball is a big part of my life and I’m so excited to start training and competing alongside Dan and the rest of the squad.”
The current GB squads already include past and present RNC students Daniel Roper, Caleb Nanevie, Laura Perry and Kali Holder, with RNC alumni Rosie Howells (also from Cambridgeshire) and David Scott representing Great Britain in the past. Joe joins this impressive list and becomes the seventh RNC student to have dedicated himself to the training and earn his place.
Joe’s desire to play stems from his brother’s experience. “Dan went to RNC. I saw how much it changed his life for the better and it inspired me; it gave me the push I needed to get to RNC and see what they could do for me.”
When Dan left RNC he moved back to his home area of Fenland, Cambridgeshire, with his girlfriend Laura (Perry). The pair set up their own goalball club, the Fen Tigers. Joe recalls: “The first time I started playing goalball was at a training session with Dan and Laura; they’re both GB so it was pretty intense. Now my other brother Dom and step mum Emma play, so it’s a real family affair!”
“I’m nervous,” admitted Joe before travelling on Thursday. “It’s intimidating because the GB squad are so good, but it’s also really exciting because I’m going to be playing alongside the best goalball players in the country. Getting the call up was a real sense of achievement. I feel like all my time spent training and all the hard work and effort I’ve put in is paying off and I’ve earned my right to play.”
In Budapest Joe is set to be playing alongside his brother, Dan, and said: “I’m so proud to have joined Dan in the GB squad. I look at my big bro and he’s been one of my role models growing up; not just in sport, but in life, and if I can achieve half of what he has then that wouldbe brilliant. Although, there is that competitive side of me that wants to be better than him one day!”
Dan added, “It’s amazing to have Joe on the squad – I think it’s fair to say there will be an element of sibling rivalry spurring us on in training from now on!”