FORMER England midfielder Sir Trevor Brooking praised Great Britain’s Blind Football Team ahead of their challenge for honours at the Paralympics.

The ex-West Ham United stalwart was in Hereford last Friday to launch the UK’s first Blind Football Academy.

Sir Trevor gave his full support to the team and the initiative last Friday at the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC).

RNC is home to the Great Britain Blind Football Team, managed by Tony Larkin, who works full-time as the assistant director of the new Football Academy.

Sir Trevor said: “There is no better feeling than representing your country at any sport. The team have an opportunity to excel. It will be something special in China.”

He also addressed the Great Britain team who took part in a training session prior to the launch of the academy.

“I am very pleased to be here. I saw one or two of you in London last night. We wish you every success at the Paralympics in Beijing and I hope you have a great time. I also hope that you have a successful competition.”

Great Britain are among six countries who will be battling it out for gold in the Blind Football tournament.

The England squad qualified as Great Britain for the Paralympics after finishing runners-up to Spain in the European Championships.

Larkin, a former footballer with Hereford United, said: “It’s been a journey of a life-time and the lads have been working very hard. Playing football has given these young players opportunities and it has changed their lives. The academy will give students the opportunity to play football as part of their studies and it’s the first of its kind.”

RNC has launched the Football Academy as part of its multl-million pound investment at the college.

The building work is still ongoing but when finished it will comprise of a new, three-storey sports and complementary therapy centre.

It will include an indoor sports hall and outdoor all-weather pitch.

College principal Christine Steadman said: “I hope the academy signifies what the college is all about. It has never been about the new building but the opportunities that were are creating.”

She said the academy was vital to creating opportunities, boosting communication and helping the college’s students fulfil their dreams.

l The Great Britain team’s fixtures at the Paralympics in Beijing are: September 7, China; September 9, Korea; September 11, Spain; September 13, Brazil; September 15, Argentina. The play-offs for fifth and sixth place, third and fourth place and first and second place are all being held on September 17.