Amputee footballer’s Champions League honour
An 11-year-old amputee footballer from South Lanarkshire is to be a guest of honour at Saturday’s Champions League final in Madrid.
Keeley Cerretti, from Larkhall, has been chosen as the face of UEFA’s #EqualGame campaign.
She will meet UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin before watching the Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur game with him.
Keeley, who plays for Partick Thistle Junior Amputees, said: “I’m so excited. I’m going to have a good time.”
Sports fan Keeley, who also enjoys skiing, running and rock-climbing, began playing football two years ago.
She told the BBC’s The Nine: “I love the fun of it. Just running around and kicking the ball.
“All I think about when I’m playing football is scoring a goal.”
The schoolgirl had her left leg amputated from the knee down as a two-week-old baby.
She now has a custom-made prosthetic leg and a running “blade” which have allowed her to enjoy sport with her friends.
Keeley said: “I remember being upset about not being able to run. Sometimes in school I cried about it. I couldn’t run as quickly as everyone and I was always last.
“Now, I’m not that fast, but I can beat some people.
“I play football with my friends and I’m better than them”
She is naturally-left footed but, with the help of crutches, has adapted her playing style.
“My instinct is to kick with my left foot,” she said. “But I kick with my right.”
Keeley has received support from quadruple amputee and campaigner Corinne Hutton, who received a double hand transplant in January.
“Corinne told me, don’t think about the consequences,” said Keeley. “Just live your life as normal.”
Keeley was chosen to front UEFA’s #EqualGame campaign after attending the European Amputee Football Federation (EAFF) Junior Camp in Hoffenheim, Germany, last July.
Her image will appear in the match programme for Saturday’s showpiece Champions League final.
Her family are thrilled about this weekend’s Madrid trip and the prospect of seeing some of the world’s top footballers in action.
Her mother Jan said: “We are really excited.
“We are staying in a really nice hotel. They have gone all out in terms of making it a really special time for her.
“I think we are supporting Liverpool. I’m really hoping she gets carried away in that big environment with all those thousands and thousands of football supporters.”
Keeley’s love of the game was sparked by a training session organised by Amputee Football Association Scotland.
Jan said: “It’s great for Keeley. It allows her to play sport with other people in similar situations as her, whether it be an arm or a leg or a foot.
“She really enjoys this – it gives her a boost. And it’s something she can do well.”
‘Feeling of belonging’
Keeley’s father David, who is a volunteer football coach, added: “It gives her the enjoyment of being part of a team who are like Keeley. Not children at school who have got all their limbs.
“It gives her a feeling of belonging to something. She now belongs to a group of over 100 children across Europe who turn up every year for a summer camp.
“It gives here the drive and determination to go there and do her best.
“And when she does, that smile of hers just beams.”