Blind player with 1% eyesight scores penalty in Swedish league game

Posted by Chris Wright

Andreas Engstrom came on as a substitute and scored a penalty for Swedish sixth division side Ulvsby IF last weekend which, in and of itself, isn't particularly noteworthy -- that is until you factor in that he lost 99 percent of his vision to a congenital eye disease over six years ago.

Playing for Ulvsby at the weekend while working as train ticket inspector by day, Engstrom began to notice his eyesight deteriorating when it became increasingly difficult for him to read ticket stubs.

After several visits to the hospital and to eye specialists, the poor guy was eventually diagnosed with Leber's disease (LHON): a rare and incurable hereditary disease that slowly brings about the failure of the optic nerves.

Just two months after being diagnosed, Engstrom was left with just 1% vision in both eyes, which left him unable to enjoy his two main passions in life: driving his car and both training and playing with his hometown football club.

The man himself told his story to Swedish paper NWT last week:

"I was working as a train-ticket inspector when I noticed that my eyesight was getting worse and that I was struggling to do my job.

"It was only going in one direction and everything happened quickly. After several visits to the hospital I was told that I could have developed a rare eye disease. My dad came to the next appointment and it was then that I was told that I had the incurable disease."

You could forgive the man for taking that kind of life-changing news badly, but Engstrom was determined to not let his condition get the better of him.

After receiving the awful diagnosis from his doctor, he turned up at Ulvsby training later that week and immediately told his teammates what he would be facing.

Just two months later, Leber's disease had robbed Engstrom of 99% of his sight. However, unable to play for Ulvsby, he continued to work tirelessly for his football club by fulfilling several back-room roles: official statistician, club secretary, web editor and unofficial dressing room mascot.

To thank Engstrom for his commitment to the cause in face of such adversity, the rest of his Ulvsby teammates devised a ruse. The plan was that, should they ever be winning a game comfortably and happen to win a penalty, Engstrom would be subbed on, allowed to take the spot-kick and hopefully score one last goal for his beloved club.

It may have taken six long years, but that day finally came last weekend when, with Ulvsby several goals up and cruising at home to opponents Backhammar, they managed to win themselves a second-half penalty.

It was at that point a very special substitute entered the fray.

"As always, we were struggling for players, so I put myself as a substitute and the lads promised that they would get a penalty and that I would take it," Engstrom continued.

"In the middle of the second half one of the players came to me and said he'd got a penalty. 'Get the shirt on and take it,' he told me.

"I got really nervous. One of the guys put the ball on the penalty spot but I went up and touched the ball to know exactly where it was. I could, somewhere, see a little bit of the posts and I aimed for the right post. The feeling was that I missed and that it went straight on, but then I heard the lads cheer.

"Afterwards the guys asked how I could be so cool to wait for the goalkeeper to make his move before I shot. I didn't have a clue I did that!"

Ulvsby ended up trouncing Backhammar 6-1 with Engstrom on the scoresheet, but he decided to phone up his father after the game and pretend that he missed his big penalty in order to ramp up the suspense.

"I told him on the phone that I didn't score this time either but then, in the evening, I got the video out and showed him. He started to cry. Both he and my Mum know how much I want to play football 'for real'. It was emotional."

Amazingly enough, the very footage in question was captured...

Truly, truly astounding! Now if you'll please excuse us, we appear to have gotten something in our eye.


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