World title chance for Action man Gary
By Daniel Maguire BEFORE the national football team have even kicked a ball in earnest at next year s showpiece event in the sporting calendar, England may already have some world champions crowned in South Africa. Just three months before the football...
By Daniel Maguire
BEFORE the national football team have even kicked a ball in earnest at next year's showpiece event in the sporting calendar, England may already have some world champions crowned in South Africa.
Just three months before the football World Cup gets underway, the Action Netball World Championships will take place in South Africa's capital, Johannesburg from March 12-21, where England will be hoping to beat the six countries vying for the chance to win the Action netball's most illustrious prize.
But this tournament has a difference, as the English Action netball squad of four teams involves a team comprised solely of men. Within that team is north London's very own Gary Brown.
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Gary, 30, of Somerfield Road in Finsbury Park, has been playing netball since his days at primary school and feels that Action netball's exposure to those unaware of its existence would be hugely beneficial in raising the sport's profile.
Traditional netball is commonly regarded as a female-only sport and Gary has often had to field the common question he gets asked.
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"When I tell people that I play netball, I get the usual response of 'do you wear the pleated skirts?' But the reality is Action netball is not as easy as people would think it is as it's basically an hour of sprinting."
Action netball is a variation of traditional netball with the major difference being that it is played on an indoor court surrounded by nets that prevent the ball from leaving the area of play. The game is regarded to be more physically demanding than the traditional game as there are fewer stoppages.
Currently playing for back-to-back title winners Vamoose in the PlayNetball North London league, Gary believes the lack of recognition from the government towards funding the sport has made life difficult for those who enjoy it and represent their country at international level.
"Funding is everything. Unless you have money, you can't do anything.," he said. "Without any financial aid, the sport cannot be marketed and as a consequence, the lack of exposure prevents the sport from growing. Without funding, people are unaware of its existence.
"However, the sport is becoming more popular in London due to the large Australian and Kiwi population who live here. Men's participation in netball is common in those countries, as well as South Africa. There are now an estimated 500 men playing netball in London alone."
England will be bringing four squads to Johannesburg next year, consisting of teams from the Men's, Mixed, Open Ladies and Under-21 Ladies categories. Gary will be representing his country in the men's category with 11 other team-mates.
As the sport continues to grow in popularity around the world, we asked Gary what he thinks England's chances are of winning the ultimate prize in South Africa.
"Realistically, it will be very difficult. This will be the sport's fourth competition and England's third appearance in it," he said. "On the two occasions we made the World Championships, we went away winless.
"However, we have a greater experience within the squad now as three of the players are playing in their third tournament. England are newcomers to the sport and so our first aim has to be getting our first win at the Championships."
Given the usual failures of the nation's footballers, there is still some hope that at least one England team will be returning home from the South Africa next year as world champions.
n Gary Brown and his fellow squad members have to fund their own travel expenses to South Africa, and he is appealing to the generosity of anybody who feels they could offer him any sponsorship.
Those interested in sponsoring Gary can do so by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org