Tributes paid to talented powerchair footballer
Tributes have been paid to a hugely-talented powerchair footballer who not only achieved his childhood dream of representing Brighton & Hove Albion but went on to score more than 170 goals for the club.
Lewis Hammans, who passed away last Tuesday morning at the age of 20, began playing powerchair football with Albion in the Community at the age of 11 after reading about the charity’s sessions in the matchday programme during a game at Withdean.
He went on to become one of the country’s top players and helped establish Brighton & Hove Albion Powerchair FC as a permanent fixture in the Muscular Dystrophy UK Premiership.
His goals also propelled the team to a string of regional league titles and saw them qualify for the EPFA Champions Cup – powerchair football’s equivalent of the Champions League.
A regular at the top of the national scoring charts, Hammans had been tipped for future international honours in powerchair football, having already represented his country at boccia –missing out on qualifying for the 2016 Paralympics by just one place.
As a season ticket holder since the club’s Withdean days, playing for the Albion, however, was already a dream come true. Speaking shortly after scoring his 100th goal for the club – a milestone he reached by scoring two hat-tricks in one game – he explained just how much it meant to him. He said: “My dad first took me to the Albion at Withdean when I was five – watching in rain, wind and shine, parking my wheelchair under the South Stand.
“I never thought it possible to play football, let alone play football for my team. It just makes me feel so proud. You always dream of scoring goals for your team, but 100, and for the Albion? It’s been an honour and a privilege.”
Paul Brackley, disability manager at Albion in the Community, was among those keen to pay tribute to Hammans. He said: “All of us in the disability team are absolutely devastated and our deepest sympathies go to Lewis’ family and teammates.
“On a personal note I’ve enjoyed many a training session in Lewis’ company and it has been a privilege to be able to support the team – particularly Lewis’ dad Chris who is the current head coach – and see Lewis grow into a fine young man and extremely talented footballer.
“Lewis was an integral part of our powerchair team and had been from the very beginning. I know he will be missed not only by everyone at Albion in the Community, but by people from across the powerchair football family.”
It was a sentiment shared by Martin Perry, chair of trustees at Albion in the Community, who said: “Everyone at Albion in the Community was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of Lewis’ untimely passing.
“Every football fan dreams of playing for the club they support, and Lewis did this with almost unrivalled success – becoming the first person to score 150 goals for the club’s powerchair team.
“He was a hugely-talented footballer but more than that he was an exceptional young man who always represented the charity and the football club in an exemplary way – on and off the pitch.
“Lewis will be sorely missed by everyone connected with Brighton & Hove Albion and Albion in the Community and the thoughts of everyone at the charity go to his family and teammates at this very difficult time.”