HARRY BAKER: THE GOLDEN BOOT WINNER YOU PROBABLY DIDN'T HEAR ABOUT THIS SUMMER
As England reached the 2018 FIFA World Cup semi-finals and Harry Kane won the Golden Boot in Russia this summer, another Harry was about to embark upon a successful tournament of his own.
Harry Baker, a student from the University of Birmingham who’s not usually renowned for scoring goals, finished joint-top scorer at the IFCPF European Championship in Holland, after finding the net seven times in five matches.
England eventually finished fifth to ensure qualification to next year’s World Cup in Madrid – their joint best-ever finish at the European Championships.
Speaking after the tournament, which took place at the KNVB Campus in Zeist between Wednesday 25 July and Sunday 5 August, Harry said: “I had never scored an international goal in a tournament before these European Championships, so to score seven goals in five matches was an unbelievable experience for me.
“I have always seen myself as a defender, but under the manager, who implements an exciting style of play, I was moved to the wing position, which I thoroughly enjoyed.”
Harry’s tournament got off to the best possible start, as he scored twice in a 10-0 victory over Finland before England were defeated by the tournament winners Russia in their second group game. Another emphatic victory followed over Spain, with Harry scoring once in a 9-1 win. England then faced Ukraine in a crucial qualification match but Ukraine ran out 2-0 victors, resulting in England being eliminated at the group stage.
“We were second on goal difference going into the game against Ukraine and I felt responsible for their second goal, which was a horrible feeling,” explained Harry. “However, I knew that I had to switch my attention to securing fifth place to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Madrid.”
Switching focus certainly worked for Harry, who scored his first-ever international hat-trick in an emphatic 8-0 victory over Northern Ireland, which helped to increase the squad’s confidence ahead of their last match against Germany. His seventh goal of the tournament in the second-half of that game secured a 2-0 win, fifth place and qualification to next year’s World Cup. However, Harry still had to endure a nervous wait to find out if he had won the Golden Boot or not.
“When I was waiting for the Golden Boot winner to be announced I was so nervous, yet this feeling was soon overcome with a sense of euphoria and relief when my name was read out as a joint winner,” added Harry.
“For me personally, it is my greatest achievement.”
Harry’s journey into disability football didn’t begin until his teenage years, having previously played mainstream football at school. Being unfamiliar with PAN disability football meant that Harry was hesitant about whether the sport was for him or not.
“After being nominated for an award during school, I was scouted for Northampton Town’s PAN Disability Football team. I was very hesitant at first, as I had never played disability football before, but the standard was excellent and within one season I was scouted for West Midlands Cerebral Palsy’s regional team.”
From there, Harry received his first England Cerebral Palsy team call-up when he was 16 and has since played in two European Championships and two World Cups.
His journey shows the benefit of PAN disability football and the pathway that The Football Association offers, something which many do not get involved with as they are comfortable and capable of playing in mainstream football.
Harry now dreams of winning medals with the England CP team and representing Team GB at the Paralympic Games.
To find out more about disability football within Birmingham, the Talent Pathway and more, head to https://bit.ly/2zYOrm8