Rio Ferdinand mentor of a Paralympic footballer

Man United star Ferdinand is going for gold at the Paralympics… as a mentor

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UPDATED:

22:19 GMT, 21 April 2012

Alistair Patrick-Heselton almost lost his life, never mind his football career, in a car crash in 2006 that left one friend dead and another badly injured.

But six years later he has dreams of winning a medal for Team GB at this summer’s Paralympics in London.

He was 23 and had made it to the fringes of the QPR first team when, in the early hours of that fateful morning, the car in which he was travelling smashed into barriers on the A40 in London, throwing Heselton through the windscreen and fracturing his skull.

Top support: Alistair Patrick-Heselton (left) with mentor Rio Ferdinand

Top support: Alistair Patrick-Heselton (left) with mentor Rio Ferdinand

‘I was in a coma and woke up three months later to be told what had happened,’ he recalled last week.

‘The doctors didn’t know if I’d survive, let alone walk or play football again. I had severe head trauma and brain scarring but, when it all sank in, I was determined I’d live the best life I could, if not play again.’

The possibility of further damage deterred him from going back to football.

‘I was told that they couldn’t guarantee that one header wouldn’t kill me, or leave me eating through a straw for the rest of my life,' he said.

It was friends and contacts in the Football Association who, after four years of encouragement, eventually persuaded him to try CP (cerebral palsy) football, in which teams are comprised of players with different degrees of handicap.

Mentor: The United star will be hoping Heselton will be able to win gold

Mentor: The United star will be hoping Heselton will be able to win gold

Swift progress, in part assisted by the Jaguar Academy of Sport – a bursaries and mentoring programme for which Rio Ferdinand is a ‘mentor’ ambassador – has culminated in Heselton being picked to play for Team GB at the Paralympics this summer.

‘At one stage I thought I’d never kick a ball again,’ he said. ‘Now I’m looking forward to giving it my best to win a medal.'