A YOUNG sports star, who will soon realise his dream of representing Ireland, attributes his success to “the generosity of the Mid-Ulster community.”
Marc Bigger of Magherafelt, who has a degenerative muscle-wasting condition, will compete with the Ireland U-18 team for the EPFA (European Powerchair Football Association) International Trophy in Paris this October.
The 16-year-old, who plays for the Belfast Trailblazers, was selected for the All-Ireland side by the AIPF (Association of Irish Powerchair Football). He is the only Northern Irish player to have made the shortlist.
Marc’s mum Marina told the MAIL that her son’s dream has materialised due to the “overwhelming support and kindness of local people and businesses” - Marc, she explains, uses a custom-made wheelchair due to his condition, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
The wheelchair, which has enhanced his manoeuvreability, was purchased last year following a hugely successful charity football match organised by Marc’s brothers, Richard and Stephen, and highlighted in the MAIL.
Marina says the family had hoped to raise £8,500 but, due to “the amazing support” received, this target was not only achieved, but surpassed.
Football has made an immeasurable difference to Marc’s life, explains Marina.
“When Marc first started playing football two years ago, it changed his whole world,” says Marina. “He changed overnight, becoming less withdrawn, more sociable and generally much, much happier.
“Football helped Marc make friendships and gave him something to focus on, look forward to and in which he could be number one.”
“Marc’s philosophy has always been one of independence and not dependence, “continues Marina. “He has three passions in life - powered football, Arsenal and his studies - and is fully committed to all three.”
A student at Magherafelt’s St. Pius X College, Marc has just completed eight G.C.S.E’s. He is currently attending a week-long I.T. Course at the University of Ulster, accompanied by mum. The world of I.T. is another area in which Marc excels - “I know my son is academically very capable, but I was amazed at his knowledge of I.T. I felt so proud,” she said.
Marc has a busy few months ahead. Soon, he will learn how he has fared in his exams. And, then, it’s off to Paris for a competitive bout of powerchair football. On his return, Marc will receive an international cap which will be presented at Dublin Castle.
The achievement is all the greater considering that Marc has only been playing at a competitive level for 18 months.
He wishes to inspire and encourage others to adopt a ‘can-do attitude’ and, at the same time, to highlight that we all deserve the same opportunities.
“Football changes lives,” said Marc.
“It has changed mine. Every kid with a disability should be given the same opportunity that I have been given.”
Marc thanks the Mid-Ulster business community and local people for their generous donations.