Gary Neville donates £20,000 to help GB football teams get to Deaflympics
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville has donated £20,000 to help the Great Britain's men's and women's deaf football teams secure their place at next year's Deaflympics.
The teams needed to raise the money by the end of the month as deposits for next July's competition in Turkey, which is the biggest multi-sport event for deaf athletes.
However, they still need to raise a further £105,000 to cover the cost of travelling to the event and training camps.
"You don't know how much this means to me and the team," tweeted GB women's captain Claire Stancliffe, who has been helping to lead the fundraising effort.
Neville's donation had come in response to a tweet from Stancliffe.
Deaf sport does not receive funding from UK Sport and in order to participate in this year's Deaf World Cup, where the women's team won bronze and the men were seventh, donations from the likes of Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland, England women's players Fran Kirby and Lucy Bronze and the foundation run by Liverpool's James Milner helped the GB squads reach their fundraising target.
Under international criteria, to be eligible to compete in deaf football competitions, players must have an average hearing loss of 55 db or more in their best ear. In addition, all players must remove all hearing aids before competing, which can affect balance.
"For the last nine years since I made my international debut, I've had to fundraise every year just to represent my country, let alone pay for all the training I have to do. It does get tiring and sometimes you do feel like just giving up," Stancliffe told BBC Sport.
"But there's just something that makes me keep fighting. I can't give up something that has ultimately made me who I am today.
"If I didn't have the opportunity to play with other deaf players, I would be lost. No one can fully understand deafness unless they have been through it themselves."
The last Deaflympics in 2013 in Sofia, Bulgaria, featured more than 2,700 athletes from 83 nations competing in 16 sports with Great Britain winning five medals, including a bronze for the women's footballers.