David 'Dave' Clarke played for the England and Great Britain blind goalball and football teams from 1996 to 2012.

It’s probably up to the likes of you and me and the blind community to make sure that people get out there and [play] now

Early Life

Born in Wigan on the 11th of September 1970, David initially could see colour but due to a congenital glaucoma his sight gradually disappeared until he was completely blind. 

As a child, David went to New College Worcester, a school for blind and visually impaired students. Here he learned to play football, often against boys up to six years older than himself, using a normal size five football filled with ball bearings. However, there was no formal coaching and David did not have a formal outlet for his interest until he was 25. 

He went on to university in Manchester, then studied for a Masters in Diplomacy and International Relations at Lancaster University. During this time, he recalls that he played less football as there was no standardised version of the game. Instead, he just played with his friends until around 1994 when blind football began to take off in the UK and they started selecting an English team for the first time. 

David says,

I was born to two Scousers so you don’t get much choice about football — you either love it or leave. I was kicking a ball on the driveway for as long as I can remember.

Life as a Paralympic athlete 

Before football 5-a-side, also known as blind football, became a Paralympic sport in 2004, David represented Great Britain in goalball at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games. 

Great Britain qualified for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games by reaching the final of the European Championships in 2007. They lost to Spain, who David had scored a hat-trick against earlier in the tournament. The Great Britain team placed fifth in the 5-a-side football at the Paralympics. 

At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, David captained the team which finished seventh, scoring two of Great Britain’s goals. During this Paralympics, he was chosen as the Stadium Torch Bearer; he was the first person to receive the torch in the stadium and passed it to the final torch bearer. 

David Clarke representing Great Britain in the football 5-a-side team at the London 2012 Paralympics. © Getty Images

After the London Games, he retired having scored 128 goals in 144 international appearances.


He compares the opportunities he had growing up to the opportunities available at his retirement: 

When I was born… there was no opportunity to play football as a blind person for your club, school, district county or your country. … It’s testament to the work of many people that we’re in a position that any blind child who wants to play, can.

Asked about his first job by the BBC in 2012, Dave replied:

As a commission only, computer cleaning-fluid salesman in Camden. After getting a degree in politics and a masters in diplomacy, I lasted two days at the job and thought I might be able to do something better. I'm now a senior partner in Clydesdale bank.

Watch and listen to David’s son talk about life with him:

Spend 100 seconds with David Clarke Captain of the GB blind Football squad (London 2012)

Retirement as a Paralympic athlete 

After his retirement, David became an ambassador for the Football Association (FA) during their 150th anniversary year, and, in 2017, voluntary Board Director for the British Paralympic Association, which he still does today. 

He has also appeared alongside David Beckham in a promotional campaign for Sainsbury’s, aiming to introduce Paralympic Sport into schools. 

In 2014, he joined ex-service men and women in a 100k walk from London to Brighton to raise money for Blind Veterans UK. 

Currently, David works for the RNIB as a Services Director. In this role, he has been involved in various projects including writing articles about the uses of Lego braille bricks for blind education and fundraising through cycling events. 

On top of this, he coaches the under-eights Harpenden Colts team. 

Achievements and Awards

Other sporting events

Away from the Paralympics, David represented Great Britain and England in 8 European and 5 World Championships, winning five silver medals and the Golden Boot on three occasions.

Other awards and recognition

In February 2013, he was given a Lifetime Achievement award by the Football Association (FA) and presented the FA Cup to the winners, Wigan Athletic F.C.

In the same year, he received an Honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Hertfordshire.

A university representative said:

As the backbone of Britain’s blind football team scoring 128 goals in the 144 games he played, David has never let his visual disability stand in his way. Despite losing his sight at an early age, he has excelled as an international footballer while developing a successful career in banking. Although now retired from competitive sport, David continues to inspire young people to be the best they can be through his involvement both with the university and the wider community.

As England’s record goal scorer in blind football, David was inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame in September 2013. He has said:

this honour confirms the high regard in which disabled football is held. ….. to have someone recognise my influence with something as mainstream as the Hall of Fame… is unbelievable.


  • Olympic Broadcasting Service, channel IPC1, Paralympics International Feed, "2012 Summer Paralympics Opening Ceremonies", airdate 29 August 2012.