Comedian swapping gags for goals at IBSA World Games
A stand-up comedian from Warwickshire is preparing to swap gags for goals as he prepares to represent England’s partially-sighted football team on home soil at a major global tournament.
Josh Pugh, who has risen to fame in recent years by supporting Ricky Gervais and appearing on Channel 4’s The Last Leg, is gearing up to pull on the Three Lions jersey at the 2023 International Blind Sport Federation (IBSA) World Games, which is taking place in Birmingham and surrounding areas between 14 and 27 August.
The Atherstone native has a sight condition called ocular albinism and nystagmus – which for Josh, means his sight is limited to a three-metre radius.
He is part of an England team that will meet Italy, France and Spain the group stages at the University of Wolverhampton’s Walsall campus, with the partially-sighted tournament starting on 16 August.
Partially-sighted football – also known as futsal in Europe and South America where it is most popular – is five-a-side and takes place on an indoor a court with hockey-sized goals either end, with fully sighted goalkeepers that stay in their areas.
And although Josh will be entering the England camp buoyed by people’s laughter, he is adopting a serious approach in order to land silverware at the third time of asking, and this time, on home soil.
Josh said: “Weirdly when I get to football I just like to be a footballer. We’ve got other lads who have day jobs, but when we get there we chat about work for five minutes and then we leave it and focus on the football – but I like to think I am good company!
“We want to win the whole thing. With the tournament being on home soil and the experience of being in two finals previously, I think we are getting closer. Ukraine have won the last two finals, but we are also wary of teams like Turkey, Spain, France and Japan.”
While the on-court action at the 2023 IBSA World Games – whose lead sponsor is RNIB – is important, Josh is hoping that staging the world’s largest sporting event for blind and partially sighted athletes in the UK for the first time will have a positive impact at grassroots level too.
“There are too many blind and partially sighted people who just stumble across sport,” added Josh.
“It should be about taking opportunities to people a bit more and giving them the confidence that they can play sport and participate in all areas of society, which is something that British Blind Sport are really good at – and is hopefully a legacy aspect of the IBSA World Games too.
“I remember being at airports in my England tracksuit when I was 21, and when people asked what England team I was in, I would deliberately say I was in the under-21s. When I look back now I feel a bit ashamed about that, and it was only when I got to my late 20s where I started speaking up with pride about the team I play for.
“I am trying to get better at it, and I can now use my platform as a comedian to talk about life as a partially sighted person.”
For more information about the 2023 IBSA World Games visit www.ibsagames2023.co.uk, and for more details on ways that blind and partially sighted people can get involved in sport, see British Blind Sport and RNIB’s See Sport Differently campaign: www.britishblindsport.org.uk/see-sport-differently