‘The awful day my lifelong dream of playing rugby for Wales died’

‘You can’t play rugby anymore.’ That was the first thing Matthew Childs heard after waking up in hospital from an injury that left him unconcious. This is his story of broken bones and smashed ambitions – and a helicopter rescue on TV

Matthew Childs

Every Sunday morning I was welcomed by the soft rings of my alarm. Most people hate the sound of their alarm, but for me it meant so much more. Yes, I should be in bed after a long week of school, but for me Sunday was the most important day of the week. I’d wake up with butterflies in my stomach, nervous about how well I was going to play, but most importantly because I did not want to get knocked out again. Because getting knocked out would mean my dream of playing rugby for the rest of my life would come hurtling to an abrupt and premature end.

Today would be one of the biggest games of the season, My team was playing our rivals, Driffield, so I had to prepare myself for a physical battle, but nothing could fully prepare me for what was going to happen.

Today would also be the last time I ever walked out onto a rugby pitch as a player.

Rugby was everything to me. Having the ball in my hands felt like I was holding a trophy. Being born in Wales meant, without a doubt, rugby is in my blood. I had played rugby since I was nine and remember watching rugby with my parents and seeing the passion they had and instantly knew that I wanted to be the next big rugby star, so my parents could cheer me on. I was only small when I started playing, but as I got older and continued to play, I got stronger and better. I played for a local team called Pocklington. The blue and white kits were snazzy and as soon as I started playing, I knew that this is what I wanted to do for as long as I could.

Eventually I had trials for Yorkshire. At this point it seemed that everything was coming into place. Then injury struck. I broke my shoulder blade and spent the next few weeks attempting to sleep upright while my bone excruciatingly repaired itself.

Then my life repeated. I had another trial for Yorkshire. All these thoughts were racing through my head, ‘How will it feel to score?’ ‘Am I going to play for the county?’ ‘Are my parents watching?’ Then, SMASH. Two players tackled me and tipped me onto my shoulder. The weight of three people came crashing down, snapping my collar bone along with all my dreams.

I returned to the pitch again, but this is where the injuries took a turn. Up until my injuries this had been the best season of rugby for me. We just kept winning,  I played every game really well, but most importantly this was the year I went to Welsh Exiles. Welsh Exiles are a development team for those that may not live in Wales, but wish to play for them. I had this hope of going to a university in Wales so I could play rugby and eventually get to play professionally. I kept going to the Welsh Exiles training days and although I was not yet playing for them, I looked forward to the day I could get my first uncapped international match.

I said that this was my favourite season, but it was also the one that I hated the most. My first knockout came hurtling towards me like a boulder down a cliff. Waking up laying on a pitch with coats over me, coaches panicking and my mum and dad worried to death was a scary experience. I had to take six weeks out for a concussion. I was upset. Not the upset where you are crying, but upset where you feel like you have let yourself down. The ‘why has this happened to me?’ mentality.

I bought myself a scrum cap to protect my clearly fragile head and returned six weeks later to one of the only places that felt like home. Yet again though, as soon as I returned, I got knocked out. I was in hospital this time and remember being laid down on a bed for so long that when I got up, I passed out. I hate hospitals. The constant beeping, the boredom, the lights that make your eyes hurt, the length of time you have to wait just to hear anything about when you can go home. The doctors told me that I had to be careful. My first knockout was quick and I wasn’t unconscious for a long time, but for the second one I was unconscious for longer. Again, I had to wait six weeks before I could return, and that day could not have come any sooner.

Illustration by Liv Phillips

So, the alarm clock rang that Sunday morning at eight. I was nervous, but I was all good to play this close rival match against Driffield. During my six weeks of recovery all I could think about was being back on the pitch and loving every minute of it. If I only I’d known what was about to happen.

The game was going swimmingly. I was playing really well, and we were winning. The second half came, and it was our kick-off. We kicked the ball high and short as always. I was running towards the flying ball, planning when to jump and contest, but the ball landed sooner than I thought. I charged to make a strong dominant tackle, but as I went in my head connected with an opponent’s shoulder.

Instantly I felt everything coming to an end. My vision started to fade, and then … nothing. All I saw was darkness until I awoke several hours later in hospital with tubes stuck in my arms and a headache that felt like Zeus had just stuck me with a bolt of lightning.

The doctors and my parents looked at me in shock trying to understand why I was unconscious for so long. It turns out I was taken to hospital in a helicopter – which is pretty cool. I have never been in a helicopter so it was a new experience, even if I can’t remember it. The helicopter journey was not any normal ride either because I was filmed for the Helicopter ER TV show.

When the doctor came in to check on me, I had this terrible sense I knew what he was going to say. He said it: I could no longer play rugby, and, in this moment, I experienced my first heartbreak. All my dreams were over. I used to spend every day waiting for the next time I could be on the pitch and now nothing, no dreams, no future in rugby, just nothing.

However, there is a silver lining to my departure. My final moments of rugby were documented on Helicopter ER. I might not be a rugby star, but at least I got on TV.

VIDEO: DMU student reflects on Wembley trip for FA Cup final

By Oliver Taylor

De Montfort University student Luke Pawley was one of the 6,250 Leicester City fans at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, May 15.

Luke was selected as one of two lucky journalism students to attend the FA Cup final.

With tears in his eyes, Luke watched as the club he has supported for his entire life lifted the trophy for the first time in its history.

Luke said: “I got a message about it first and I thought someone was winding me up! I then got a call and had it confirmed.

“I was there working for DMU as well so I knew I had a job to do there, but the overriding feeling was just pure, personal excitement.”

Women’s boxing club opens up in Leicester

By Joshua Solomon

A boxing club in Leicester now has a club for girls who want to take part.

Unity Boxing Club in Leicester has now opened a club for girls between the ages of 16 and 19 who enjoy the sport or want to take part.

It comes after Leicester City Council agreed to fund the programme for girls boxing from ages 16 to 19. The programme commences on Saturday, May 22, with the sessions free for the foreseeable future.  

Also, all attending will receive a free set of boxing gloves and training pads. 

Ajmal Butt, the owner of the Unity Boxing Club, said: “The council and the mayoress have always supported us since I opened 11 years ago, males and female classes have always run at Unity ABC.”

He added: “It’s important for females to be encouraged in our sport, and one of the most successful boxers is a female from our club. Paige Murney won Commonwealth Games silver two years ago and is currently on the GB 🇬🇧 squad.”

Former professional boxer from the midlands, Kelton McKenzie, who is now an independent boxing and fitness specialist coach who runs Boxercise4health, will also be involved as it is a joint venture with Unity Boxing Club.

If you are interested in joining the club you can contact them on 07976704585.

Unity Boxing ClubUnity Boxing ClubLeicester, LE4 0RX.

Football pair’s Road2Pro social media brand takes off

By Joshua Solomon

Two grassroots footballers are taking their future careers into their own hands by starting their own social media pages.

Antonio Dembele and Aaron Ceasar have created a social media brand called Road2Pro – a day by day capture of their lives which shows their intense 1-2-1 training sessions, match highlights and fitness programmes.    

Antonio and Aaron have both played for an array of teams such as Sutton United, Leatherhead and Melwood FC and have now decided to add the media aspect as a way of getting attention. 

Already they have gained traction on Instagram with more than 600 followers and millions of viewers.

Antonio said: “The chances of being seen by a scout by playing just Sunday league football is very low, so we thought what would be a way of getting a light shone in our direction.

“That’s how this started really. I have a level 3 media qualification so I know I could make good video content.”

The pair started their Instagram page at the turn of the year during lockdown. 

The Instagram page has gauged a lot of attention due to the quality and transparent nature of the videos. Major sport platforms such as 433, who have more than 30 million followers, grassroots goals, tekkers and ESPN have all reposted videos. 

Following the success of the videos and updates, the pair have worked with one of the best trainers in the game, Sammy Moore, who is a youth academy owner, to fine tune their skills. 

Also, they have received plaudits from professional women’s player Ella Bryan who plays for West Bromwich Albion and various coaches from around the world such as German coach Tobias Esche. 

To find out more, visit their pages at:

Instagram: road2pro._

Twitter: road2_pro

TikTok: road2pro

Opinion: Does European Super League spell the end of football as we know it?

By Thomas Carter

It was the announcement that took the footballing world by storm. The proposed formation of a European Super League, in which 12 of the continent’s powerhouse clubs (including six English teams) compete in a division of their own. Somewhat inevitably, the reaction to the news has been one of uproar and resistance.

Members of football communities took straight to social media to voice their discontent, with the new league coming under fire from pundits, managers and players alike.

Among the larger concerns is the idea that the formation of a Super League would create further separation in a climate already riddled with financial division, in what would be the most seismic shift football has observed since the creation of the Premier League in 1992.

As of today, the 12 clubs that would make up this new division include: Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan.

They are known as the ‘Founding Clubs’, with a further three teams expected to join the list in the coming days.

While the resistance from the fans has been evident, there is no denying the Super League’s financial backing, with American giants JP Morgan investing $6bn into the project.

As more details are revealed and the fury within the football sphere intensifies, a glaringly-obvious issue is getting lost in the adversity – this was inevitable.

Football is no longer the game of the people, and hasn’t been for years. Instead, it is controlled by a select few at the top of the financial chain. With that in mind, it has surely just been a matter of time before something of this nature took shape.

In England, the Premier League has long been known as the ‘top six teams and the rest’, as though either ends of the table are different divisions. This has been observed across Europe for decades, with powerhouse clubs dominating their respective leagues. Taking this into account, the formation of European Super League, in which these clubs only play those of the same quality, is hardly an unrealistic step within a game driven by revenue.

Another issue, however, comes with the new league’s proposed format, which would see no promotion or relegation – this is not football.

The very core of the sport is reliant on opportunity and progression, with teams battling it out to climb higher than they are, regardless of their stature. If a select few clubs play in their own exclusive league, one they are only in on a matter of wealth, then the soul of the game has been sold.

Ultimately, the formation of a European Super League, while a natural progression in a climate that facilitates greed and profit, would be a sad moment in the history of football.

Through further economic division and the very desire to progress being removed for almost all teams, this new division would certainly see the beautiful game enter its darkest hour.