MATTHEW Ellis believes Team GB’s seven-a-side football team should fear no-one as they prepare to take their shot at Paralympic glory.
The 32-year-old, who is from Elmswell, near Stowmarket, but currently lives in Miami, USA, will be part of the squad that walks out at the Riverbank Arena tomorrow against Brazil (4.15pm) as the event, participated by athletes with differing classifications of cerebral palsy, kicks off.
The tournament features eight teams in two groups of four, with the top two teams in each qualifying for the semi-finals.
Ukraine, who Team GB will face on Monday (11.15am), before a match with USA on Wednesday (4.15pm), are among the favourites going into the event and will be highly fancied to challenge for gold.
However, Ellis – part of the team that reached the semi-finals in Beijing in 2008 – believes GB should not be ruled to be among the medals, despite the added pressure of competing in front of an expected capacity home crowd.
“You can’t prepare for what it is going to be like stepping out in front of the home fans, it will be completely different to Beijing with a new level of pressure on us,” he said.
“It was more of a learning curve for us there in preparation for 2012 and hopefully we can show how much we’ve improved.
“We have no ranking being a Great Britain team but we are aiming to finish no lower than fifth minimum and we are hopeful of getting on to the podium with a medal.
“Russia are the current world champions and Ukraine are ranked second, but that shouldn’t faze us and I would like to think that we will be in the mix as well.”
Like the majority of the nation, Ellis was left captivated by the success and overall excitement generated by the performances and medal haul of Team GB in the Olympics two weeks ago.
For the first time in Paralympic history, the event is expected to be a sell-out with around 2.5 million tickets sold and Ellis is confident the capacity crowds will be in for a surprise as they aim to leave a lasting legacy for disability sport.
“I saw the crowd reaction to Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis during their races and without doubt it would be amazing to have that level of support for our matches,” he added.
“As I understand it, a lot of our matches have been sold out, so that can only be a positive thing and hopefully that will push us on.
“I think the level of skill will definitely surprise a few people who have never seen us play.
“There are different classification of player’s disabilities but they are all very gifted players.
“Hopefully that level of performance on show with the coverage we should get throughout the Games, should get more people into playing and gives us a great vehicle to help promote participation and leave a lasting legacy for future Paralympians.”