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Ben Gunning For Euro Glory

PUBLISHED

17:21 25th March 2013

Wolves' Sports Therapist to fly the flag

A number of Wolves' first team squad are away on international duty this week, but, as they return to prepare for Saturday's fixture against Middlesbrough, it will be the turn of one of the backroom staff to represent his country.

First team Sports Therapist Ben Mortlock has been chosen to represent England in the forthcoming European Futsal Championships in Turkey.

Ben is part of the 14-man England squad that have already made history, having made it past the Preliminary Rounds for the first time. Next week, they will play Turkey, Ukraine and Slovenia as they bid to make it to the Elite competition - in which the best 16 teams on the continent will battle it our for the title of European champions.

The sport is played indoors, by five-a-side teams using a smaller ball than regular, full-size football.

Ben explains: "I first started playing the game around nine or ten years ago. I played in a local league in Grimsby, then played at university in Middlesbrough.

"In around 2008 there were trials for the national team, which my coach at Middlesbrough put me forward for. I got in, so since then I've just been playing whenever and wherever I can really, just to stay in contention."

Ben now plays for Loughborough Students, and although he admits it is tough to juggle both his professional and futsal careers, he says the sport is a rewarding one.

"It's difficult to juggle the two, because it's such a demanding job. But I get the chance to train with Loughborough, and Wolves have been great when it comes to giving me the time off to play for England. It's difficult, but I manage it.

"I get a bit of banter about it at the club," he continues. "It's mainly the staff rather than the players that hammer me about it, but I expect it, I've had it at every club I've worked at!

"It's a great sport to play. That's why we do it really - we're all amateurs - because we get on well with each other and we enjoy playing."

While dreaming of short-term success with England in Turkey next week, Ben is also hopeful that the game will continue to grow in terms of participation and popularity.

"When I first started, you could probably win a local league and get straight to the national finals, but now it's a lot more competitive," he explains.

"Now there are thousands of league and  thousands of players playing. It's coached through the age groups and seems to be getting more and more popular every year," he adds.

"I think the sport now just needs a break, whether that be in increased television coverage, or in terms of someone famous to get involved. There have always been lots of rumours but nothing has developed as yet."

Ben says he has so far resisted temptation to ask any of the Wolves lads to get involved, giving the reason that they 'probably have enough on their plate at the moment'.

However, he adds: "A lot of Premier League clubs have got futsal teams in their academies now, so it's growing. I think the natural course will mean the sport will continue to get bigger and bigger."


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