Breaking Barriers | Josh Boggi

Breaking Barriers | Josh Boggi

Promoting and celebrating the successes of individuals from diverse ethnic communities and underrepresented groups within our game.

Football is a funny thing. 

Once you’ve fallen in love with it, it’s almost impossible to imagine ever falling out of love with it. Sure, maybe your involvement changes, moving from playing, to coaching, refereeing, to volunteering or supporting but it’s always there. 

It can be the thing that connects us to home, to family past and present, friendships new and old. It’s the constant, familiar and often reliable old friend. The thing we grow up with that stays with us through life, and the love that outlives us.

For Josh Boggi, football has always been there. Through his formative years to his career, and during some of the toughest and most challenging periods in his life. 

This is his story...

Josh’s affinity for football started, like it does for many, as a young child. Growing up in Slough, he used to go to friends' houses and kick a ball around in the back garden. When he was about ten or eleven, his mum took him to Langley Saints, his local club, where he played as a centre forward before finding his passion for goalkeeping, and when his love for the game truly began.

Football and sport in general were a constant through Josh’s school years. A talented goalkeeper, at the age of fifteen he joined Denham-based club, Martin Baker, and was playing for their reserve team in the Hellenic League just a year later.

At seventeen, his family decided to relocate and like many of us at that age, Josh was faced with some big decisions about his future and so, following in his father’s footsteps, he joined the British Army. 

He remembers vividly the moment he waved goodbye to his parents from the train station platform as he headed to basic training. It was real. The first life-defining choice he made for himself, something he wanted to do and something he later discovered he loved. 

It was during his time in basic training that Josh started to appreciate the importance of being part of a team, learning to work together and depend on each other was a parallel he made from playing football, and he enjoyed the camaraderie that kind of bond can create. 

Once he completed all his military training, at the age of eighteen, he was posted to Aldershot where during this time he found his footballing home – Taplow Utd. Here he stayed, taking breaks in play when he was on tours of duty but always returning to the club, to his team, when he was back in the UK.

Years later, on his third tour of duty, being part of a team is what would save his life, literally and figuratively.

On New Year’s Eve, 2010, at the age of twenty-four, Josh stood on an improvised explosive device (IED) resulting in the loss of both his legs and his right arm.

His teammates on the ground saved his life that day and he was back in hospital in the UK less than 24 hours after sustaining life-changing injuries.

Josh spent six weeks on a specialist military ward in hospital before being moved to a rehabilitation centre where he had to learn to walk again, adapting to prosthetic legs and regaining his fitness. He speaks of how tough those initial weeks in hospital were, of processing what had happened, noting how he took strength from knowing he wasn’t alone, knowing family, friends and the fellow service men and women alongside him were there to help support each other, working together - a team.

Football played its part in Josh’s recovery too. From watching Match of the Day in hospital, to returning to Taplow and the game he loved. Josh explored the opportunities to play again, but deep down he knew he didn’t want that. He wanted to stay involved because being part of a team of people at the club, all with a shared passion and working towards a common goal is what motivated him.

He spoke with friends at the club and, knowing he wanted to return to his team, decided to adapt his involvement by turning to coaching. He went on to complete his FA Level 1 and Level 2 Coaching qualifications and started working with the reserve team manager where he reconnected with the feeling of being in a team environment.

The move was difficult at first, not only learning adapting to a new role, but also having the added barrier of not being able to demonstrate or move around the pitch as easily as he used to. He had help from another coach and could always ask players to step-in, but he learnt to overcome this barrier by changing the way he communicated, explaining what he wanted players to do in different ways so that they could visualise it. 

Whilst his involvement in football helped his mental rehabilitation, he felt that to continue moving forward in his life he would need a new physical challenge. 

Before he was medically discharged in 2014, his Exercise Rehabilitation Instructor, suggested he start cycling and rowing. This seemingly small step, led to some remarkable moments in Josh’s life. 

Just six weeks after first getting on bike, Josh took part in a London to Paris bike ride for the Help for Heroes charity. From there, he went on to represent the British Armed Forces in the inaugural Invictus Games, winning medals in both disciplines.

He then went on to become part of a team of athletes that conquered the Race across America, a 3000 mile cycle challenge from California to Washington. Being involved in a team activity again was the best part for Josh. He’d lost that sense of belonging through not playing football and when he left the Army and for him cycling replaced some of what he lost.

In 2019, Josh faced another life-changing battle. A horror-accident whilst on a cycling holiday in Spain saw him fighting for his life once more. Yet more surgery followed and for the second time, he had to learn to walk again.

It was at this point that Josh realised something had to change, he’d put his life on hold to pursue cycling and felt that the time was right for him and his family to settle down. He came home, came back to football, returning to Taplow where he started his journey coaching youth football.

He’s coached his youth team for few years now and has taken great comfort and enjoyment from seeing them start their own journey to becoming a team and experiencing the joy of working together to achieve a common goal.

In terms of his involvement, the barriers Josh has faced have been largely personal, learning to adapt and overcome to new challenges in his own way such as demonstrating practices, but this hasn’t stopped him from participating in the sport. As with any passion, you only get out what you put in and whilst Josh has faced more barriers than most, it is clear the joy and value he gets from being a grassroots football coach.

Asked what he would say to anyone with a disability or impairment reading this article who might be questioning whether they could or should get involved in the sport, Josh’s message was clear:

“Try and give it a go, accept the challenge and ask for help if you need it. Teamwork is at the heart of football. You can overcome anything with the right team of people around you and the motivation to challenge yourself and overcome obstacles.”

For opportunities on how to get involved in local football, in any role, and the types of support available, please contact us.

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