FOUNDATION FOCUS: Chris Winston
Chris Winston, from Hately Heath, West Bromwich, felt unwell as he watched an England football match on TV two years ago.
By the end of the match, the 24-year-old had lost around 75 per cent of his sight, leaving him and his parents distraught.
Tests revealed Chris was suffering from the condition Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, which has caused his vision to deteriorate to the point he has now lost about 90 per cent of his sight.
The condition forced Chris to quit his job and ended any hopes of playing semi-professionally. Refusing to give up on the sport he loves, Chris turned to The Albion Foundation.
“It was hard to get to grips with at first, but if you stop you’re not going to get there,” he said.
Chris found a way back into football through the Foundation’s PAN disability team before taking part in the group’s Tri-Albion Challenge last year when he cycled in tandem from Southampton to West Brom.
Now Chris is on the verge of his first start for West Brom’s blind team and could yet use his disadvantage as an opportunity to one day represent his country.
“I know it’s still quite a way off,” he said.
“I’m fairly grounded so I know my next target is to represent the Albion and first full start for the Albion and then hopefully I’ll get thought about playing for England. There’s already been mentions of me playing for England by my coaches it’s just whether I can succeed or not.
“The Foundation have done a hell of a lot for me.
“I started off just playing football and obviously losing a lot of my eyesight meant I had to stop work.
“This offered me a pathway back into work via voluntary work and now it’s got to the stage where I’ve been offered a paid contract which is really good for me because everything’s starting to look back up in my life.”