Martin Sinclair – brother of Swansea FC star Scott Sinclair – is a key member of Great Britain’s 7-a-side cerebral palsy football team, who are ambitiously setting their sights on Paralympic glory at the London 2012 Games.
His brother Scott’s former Bristol Rovers manager, Ian Holloway, encouraged Martin to get involved with the disability programme being run by Plymouth Argyle. After scoring two goals against Liverpool, the inspirational family man earned a call up to Team GB, though with humility and a quite appreciation, he takes time out to discuss with me his future in a sport that has seemingly consumed the entire Sinclair family.
With London 2012 now just months away, how real does the whole experience feel to you?
I have my fingers crossed that I can get to the London 2012 Paralympics. It’s been a privilege. I’m just so glad to be here to be honest; I didn’t think I would be in this position eight years ago after breaking my hip and going through all of that. The transition and trying to walk after being in a wheelchair for two years was tough. It’s a privilege for me to be here to be honest.
What inspired you to take up disability football?
I played football before, mainstream, just for a local team, and then when I was 15 I broke my hip. Obviously, I was frustrated because I couldn’t play, I could just watch my younger brothers play football. From there, I didn’t think I was ever going to play football again with a hip replacement. One knock, one bad challenge and you are out again. I started training harder and my hip is a lot stronger, and the muscles in my left side are now a lot stronger, so I thought ‘why not?’
Where does the strength come from to return from such a setback and go on to achieve so much?
I think it comes from family. I had a lot of family who supported me, and the belief that there is no such word as ‘can’t’. If you want to do something, you go and do it. Don’t listen to any person telling you otherwise. That was what spurred me on, hearing people say that I wouldn’t ever be the same again. It’s a positive attitude to prove people wrong. The driving force is looking back at people who have told you that you can’t do something, and showing them that you can. I didn’t think I was going to be playing football again, but I’ve got my hip sorted and am back out there.
Does being from a family involved in the sport help or hinder?
There is Scott [currently playing for Swansea] and then there is Jake. My younger brother Jake is at Southampton. It all came from my dad, who was a semi-professional footballer, so it is in the blood. It helps.
What is your role, and what are your ambitions when playing for Team GB?
I’m in midfield, but one person doesn’t make a team. We have seven players that will be starting, and we will go to London 2012 trying to succeed and looking for that gold medal. It’s not just about me; hopefully twelve players will have succeeded in achieving their dreams as well. No one is going to stop me succeeding at London 2012.
How important will being hosts be for the London 2012 Paralympics?
With it in London, we have the chance to inspire other people who don’t have the chance. They can watch on TV and think, ‘I want to have a go at that’. Especially in London, we may be able to get people up off their seats for Paralympic sport.
The timing is good. The fans will be behind us, unlike what we would have experienced in Beijing, because not many would have been out there supporting us. London will be a big inspiration to people all over the country. For people with cerebral palsy and others who are disabled, they will hopefully watch us in action and think about having a go at something. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, at least they are trying to do something. It could be football, it could be boxing, but it’s all about us trying to succeed to inspire the next generation.
There is another reason for you to be celebrating in 2012 as well, isn’t there?
I’ve moved in with the missus., we’re getting married next year, so everything has fit in very nicely. The thing is, the marriage is happening on April 6th, so hopefully it will be a good wedding when I find out on March 31st if I have been picked to compete at London 2012. It will be a good double celebration for me. A nice wedding present will be a phone call.
Outside of your football career, how do you keep yourself busy?
I’m a learning support assistant for disabled children, so I just want to concentrate on being a role model for the kids. After all that I have been through, I want to show them that if I can do it, they can do it.
If I can bring a gold medal back to show them, that will mean everything. It will be gold. It will definitely be gold. You have to be confident; you can’t go out there and compete if you are only fifty per cent sure that you are going to win.
Over 1,200 elite British athletes benefit from National Lottery funding, supporting them for London 2012. Lottery players are also investing £2.2 billion in London 2012 venues, infrastructure and art and cultural events.
Find out more at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk