Wheelchair-bound Rocco McGowan, who had never been to a football game all his life, has attended five FIFA World Cup games at several disability-friendly stadiums in Qatar.
A Scottish boy with cerebral palsy has finally been able to attend a football game, despite being an avid football fan all his life.
Fourteen-year-old Rocco McGowan, who had never before been able to attend a football match in his wheelchair, has been able to watch five FIFA World Cup games in just 11 days, thanks to Qatar’s accessibility-friendly stadiums.
Rocco has seen teams like Brazil, Portugal, England, USA and South Korea play, and was even a player escort at the Portugal vs Korea game.
Rocco watched games at the 974, Khalifa International, Education City and Al Thumama stadiums in Doha. He said Al Thumama stadium was his favourite, and he watched two games there.
“It was the first stadium I ever went to, the first time I saw a pitch and got to be part of a sea of football fans, and the first time I got to cheer live, so that made it extra special for me,” he told Qatar Foundation.
Rocco’s father, Liam McGowan, said he had been to many football games before, but “the seats are usually at the bottom, so they don’t have a good view”.
“The way they’ve done it here – not only do fans with disabilities have a perfect view of the pitch, but they also have the choice to sit exactly where they want to around the stadium.”
McGowan, who lives in Qatar added: “One of our games was at Khalifa International Stadium and we thought why don’t we go walking since we live close by.
“I was so pleasantly surprised as to how easily we got to the stadium. There were smooth pedestrian walkways and dropped curbs the whole way which made it an absolute breeze.”
Qatar has offered disabled fans a unique experience during its hosting of the World Cup.
For each of the 64 matches, disabled fans were given an exclusive experience during the pre-game ceremony. Fans carrying Accessibility Tickets are randomly invited to visit the player tunnel, as well as the pitch-side, allowing them to get up close with the on-field stars.
Qatar’s World Cup stadiums and training sites, complied with FIFA’s Accessibility Strategy, have enabled people with disabilities and limited mobility to easily access and move around the stadiums.
Qatar is a signatory of the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) since 2008, and has been implementing various projects to further enhance the quality of services offered to people with disabilities.