After being diagnosed with MS, lifelong Manchester United fan Kaz Laljee thought Saturday afternoons spent at Old Trafford were behind him. But then he discovered the Man Utd Disabled Supporters Association and realised that with the right preparation and planning he could still cheer on his favourite team live.
I probably go to the match more now than I did before I had MS. And I enjoy it even more too!
I’ve been a Manchester United fan since 1985. The first game I went to see was against Leeds United, I think it was in 1997. I just remember being in awe of the stadium. It’s a surreal experience when you walk up the steps and see a bright green pitch and 50,000 people chanting.
When I was diagnosed with MS, I just stopped going to the football. I was worried about climbing the steps and being knocked over in the crowd. I didn’t think football grounds catered for people who struggled with walking or were in a wheelchair. I thought it was something I could no longer do and just watched matches on TV.
I found out about the Man Utd Disabled Supporters Association (MUDSA) by accident. I went along to Old Trafford on a non-match day to watch my brother do a zip slide for charity. He’d been telling me for a while that United had wheelchair seats, but I just didn’t want to be part of it. However, when I went along on the day the viewing gallery was in the disabled area and I was really impressed with all the facilities. I couldn’t believe how much care, attention and consideration gone into it! From the accessible entrance and seating area to the lounge area, it was just great. When I went to my first game in my scooter, I was blown away by how organised and friendly the staff were.
I probably go to the match more now than I did before I had MS. And I enjoy it even more too! You quickly realise that you’re not the only person with a disability wanting to go watch United. There are many others and just as passionate now as they always have been.
What advice would I give to someone who’s just been diagnosed about going to sports events? Just do it! It’s that simple. You’ll be pleasantly surprised just how well people with disabilities are catered for these days. Most, if not all, venues will have a disability policy and procedure. More often than not, they will also allow a free Carer place, so it’s not hard getting someone to come with you. There’s a real freedom and independence feel about things. Just make sure you plan and organise your journey!
Kaz Laljee is the founder of Positive About MS, a website and community that promotes a positive attitude to living with MS. He’s 36 and was diagnosed with primary progressive MS in 2006.
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