Sheffield Hallam one-armed American footballer: I never thought I could do it.
By Adam Capper
Channer stands in front of his team mates at this year’s Varsity defeat to The University of Sheffield
A one-armed Hallam student has expressed his delight at becoming a key player for the university’s American football team – a sport he never thought he could play.
Sheffield lad Channer Bal, 21, is a second year Marketing and Retail student who, despite being born without a limb, has started every single game in his debut season for theSheffield Hallam Warriors.
“You don’t miss what you don’t have and I learned to cope without it. I still played sports like football and cricket but I never thought I could play a contact sport, I’d always loved rugby but never thought I could play it. Then one day one of the coaches spotted me on campus and said I should come down for a trial. Even when I went I still didn’t really think I was going to be able to do it” said the offensive-lineman.
Channer had nothing to worry about, he impressed his coaches and team mates so much that he has played in every offensive drive this season, something which rarely happens for rookies in the rapidly expanding world of British Universities American Football.
Channer was made to feel at home right away, something he feels was down to the Warriors’ coaching staff “the head coach (Richard Batty) never came and talked to me which was great and it helped me a lot. He just called out his starting line in the training session before the first game and I was in it. I don’t think he cared if I had one arm or no arms as long as I did my job. It’s been the same with the line coaches, they have been great they told me to go out there and do my job. No one has made any issue about it. The best thing about that for me was that sometimes I forgot about it myself.”
“It’s not a weakness” – Channer Bal
The Warriors faced a rebuilding job this year having lost more than half of the squad who reached the semi-final and quarter-final of the national championship in the last two years respectively.
This paved the way for players like Channer to get some valuable game time as the Warriors won four and lost three of their seven games in a season cut short by the weather.
Not only is Channer learning about the game but also how to use his difference to his advantage “when I come face to face on the line with an opponent I use my arm for mind-games. I know they’re looking at me thinking it’s going to be an easy target so whenever it’s the first hit on someone new I make it as big and as hard as I can because know they aren’t expecting it – then they walk away knowing they’ve just been beaten by someone with one arm.”
“He spends most of his time joking about it” – Marcus Holland, Hallam Warriors
Channer’s team mate Marcus Holland is the defensive captain so regularly comes up against him in training and he’s been surprised at just how quickly Channer has become a vital member of the squad “He doesn’t let it stop him, in fact you forget about it all the time. He’s a hard guy to play against and I’m pretty pleased he’s on my team come game day.”
“For him to have come in as a rookie and play as much as he has tells you just how good he is. He doesn’t let his arm stop him and spends most of his time making jokes about it.”
Having enjoyed his first season Channer is spending the summer playing in the British American Football League’s top division for the Sheffield Predators, also led by Hallam’s Coach Batty, while looking forward to another year representing the university “I’ve taken a good few hits on my arm this year, people target it but the thing I enjoy is getting back up and showing them that It’s not a weakness.”