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International Day of Disabled Persons 2022: Norbert's story


What is it like to be disabled and work in football? To find out, we asked Norbert Foris, a staff member of the Football and Social Responsibility unit at the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ).

Norbert Foris, second left, has not allowed being blind to prevent him from taking a role with the Hungarian Football Federation
Norbert Foris, second left, has not allowed being blind to prevent him from taking a role with the Hungarian Football Federation MLSZ

Norbert Foris was born blind, but that never stopped him developing a deep love for the game and his local club, Diósgyőri VTK in his hometown of Miskolc in north-eastern Hungary.

Norbi, as he is affectionately called by his colleagues, family and friends, is also an athlete in his own right and as Hungary's top Judoka, is currently pursuing a place at the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games.

Norbert’s everyday determination is also what landed him his job at the MLSZ where he has worked for the past year. Today, he shares his story on UEFA.com, hoping to inspire others living with disability to access the game.

Football in the blood

"I’ve loved football since I was a little kid, when I used to watch football with my dad, who was a big fan. Football is an important tradition in my family.

"When I followed football on TV as a kid, I could of course feel the atmosphere conveyed by the broadcasting. But I had to rely on my dad to describe the action for me, because TV commentators assume everyone can see what is happening."

Taking his chance and making a difference

"I have degrees in physical education, public administration, public organisation and recreational organisation, which covers sports, health and well-being, and I’ve worked at the Hungarian Sports Ministry on a scholarship programme. Yet when I was looking for a job, I sent out over 100 applications to various companies across Hungary and about 50 of those never answered. More than 30 of the remaining companies told me they simply couldn’t imagine how a blind person could integrate their workforce. Only two organisations offered me an interview. One of them was the Hungarian FA, where I have been employed since November 2021.

"I started at the general secretary’s office, where I took care of administrative tasks and helped with the organisation of meetings. I then learned that the MLSZ has a Football and Social Responsibility (FSR) team and told our general secretary that I would love to work there. Being blind myself, I felt I had first-hand experience to contribute to the Football for All Abilities programmes. But I am also very interested in all the other areas. In spring 2022, I joined the FSR team and am now revising the way our ticketing system is set up, making sure it is accessible to disabled spectators.

"I also help improve the quality of the audio-descriptive commentary (ADC) we offer at national team matches. Thanks to ADC, I can now follow matches independently, without having to wait for a family or friend to tell me what is going on. And in my experience, radio commentators make much better audio-descriptive commentators than TV people. Radio journalists are trained to describe everything in much more detail."

Norbert at the office with his guide dog, Ginger
Norbert at the office with his guide dog, GingerMLSZ

Adapting his workplace

"In my experience, human resources teams simply don’t know how to interact with disabled people. They are reluctant to even try, which obviously is a huge barrier to accessing opportunities. I was lucky though, because some members of the MLSZ's senior management team are involved with blind football. They were already used to interacting with blind people and advocated for my joining.

"Wherever I go, Ginger, my guide dog, goes. So she also accompanies me to work.

Ginger is one of my closest friends and has been with me for five-and-a-half years.

"I also use a screen reader programme on my phone and computer. The software allows me to read documents and interpret photographs. I move my finger across the text or image, and the programme describes to me what I cannot see.

"I don’t like it when people try to protect me. I just want to be treated like any other person, and only be offered help when I actually ask for it."

Sporting pedigree

Norbert is one of Hungary's top blind Judokas
Norbert is one of Hungary's top blind Judokas

"Now that dedicated football programmes for blind players are available, I’d love to give that a try. But when I was a child, blind football did not yet exist, and my friends without visual impairments would not let me play. That put me off team sports and I decided to focus on individual sports instead.

"I am currently hoping to qualify for the Paralympic Games. My preparation involves three Judo sessions per week, three running trainings - my running guide and I are connected through a rope so that I know where to go - and two weightlifting sessions. Besides that, I also row twice a week, just for fun. And I frequently travel internationally for the Paris qualifiers. I’ve just participated in the World Championships in Azerbaijan and have been to Japan."

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