Paralympics 2012: Ibrahima Diallo's journey to London Games

2012 Paralympics

Date:
Wednesday, 29 August to Sunday 9 September
Coverage:
Extensive daily coverage across 5 live, 5 live sports extra and the BBC Sport website

Eight months ago Ibrahima Diallo was just another teenager trying to get noticed on a football pitch.

The 19-year-old IT student, who moved to England from Guinea aged 10, was plying his trade at college level with Bristol Academy when that moment finally arrived.

During a English College trial session at Lilleshall he was pulled to one side to talk to the physio, but Diallo could never have guessed where that conversation would end up taking him.

"The physio spotted that my running style was quite different to everyone else's," Diallo told BBC Sport.

"He asked me what the problem was and I didn't know what answer to give him. I told him it was tight muscle groups, which I had previously been told by others.

"But he said it might be cerebral palsy and advised me to see a neurologist, who confirmed it."

It came as a shock to Diallo, who assumed his continuous injury problems were nothing more than bad luck.

"I didn't know what CP was," he admitted. "I had to do my own research.

"But it was quite a relief to find out what the issue was and I was given a programme to work on."

And now, Diallo is set to make his Paralympic debut as part of Great Britain's seven-a-side team.

Despite only linking up with the squad for the first time in February, Paralympic football performance manager Jeff Davies has confidence in Diallo's ability.

"We were really lucky to find him," said Davies.

"To find a player of that quality is unbelievable. He has the potential to be the best CP player in the world at the moment. He has a little bit more work to do but I think he's very close.

"Even Russia, the best team in the world, would have him in their team. That speaks a lot for him."

Diallo certainly proved his credentials at the Paralympic World Cup, his debut event as a part of the cerebral palsy squad.

The central midfielder-striker scored seven goals in four games in Manchester to help GB reach the final against Brazil, which they eventually lost 4-2.

Upon his arrival in the squad, team-mate Martin Sinclair described Diallo as "a very tricky player" who is "one of those who can get us a goal".

But Davies believes Diallo's story can have an influence off the field as well.

"All of the players want to get on the podium and we really are trying for those medals.

"But what I think is important is that people with cerebral palsy might be playing first-team football and didn't realise there were international opportunities.

"Hopefully they'll see the boys playing in front of 16,000 people and think 'that inspires me'.

"With these new players we'll hopefully take a step towards being the best in the world."

Diallo, meanwhile, is taking the adventure in his stride.

"It's all new and very exciting," he added.

"All the travelling has been really good. They told me I was going to America, and I've never been there before. Then they told me I was going to Russia but I didn't want to go there as I don't like the cold.

"Straight after that I had to go to Italy, and I've just come back from Portugal.

"It did start to affect my studies at college, which the teachers didn't really like, but I caught up."

Top Stories