Before lockdown, Ayman was studying for her GCSEs, but on top of the regular coursework and revision, she was also learning Braille after an eye condition left her unable to read small fonts and finding it difficult to navigate her surroundings.
Despite having to come to terms with how her vision would affect her day-to-day life, Ayman says that football and Manchester United have always been a constant for her.
“I was at quite a down place in my life when I first started losing my vision. It made me quite angry because I was thinking, ‘Why does this have to happen to me?’ Ayman said. “I’ve grown up watching United with my family and football has impacted me quite a lot. I thought I wouldn’t be able to carry on with my hobbies, such as football, but you have to live with it and adapt.”
Ayman attended Whalley Range 11-16 High School, a partner school of Manchester United Foundation, at which a coach is based full-time to work with the pupils to deliver mentoring and extra-curricular activities, including football.
“The football sessions were quite inclusive so I could take part as well,” Ayman said. “I also train on a Saturday with other visually impaired people, and I take part in tournaments at Salford Sports Village. It shows that people who are visually impaired can still carry on with what they were doing before and they are still able to take part in sports.”
A huge United fan, Ayman was identified by Jason Williamson, her Foundation coach, to be invited to a ‘Dream Day’ at the Aon Training Complex, to give her a boost during the difficult time she was experiencing.
Dream Days usually take place twice a season and give fans with life-limiting conditions the chance to watch the Manchester United first team train before meeting their football heroes.
“I’ve always watched United but I never thought I would be able to go to the training ground and actually meet the players,” Ayman said. “I got pictures with them and I got to speak with them about what they do and they asked me about what I do. I didn’t really expect that at all.”
Following the Dream Day, Ayman was also surprised with tickets to the Manchester City derby at Old Trafford in March. She attended with her uncle and enjoyed the 2-0 victory from the visually impaired section of the stadium, where she was able to use headphones to listen to the match commentary.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ayman was unable to finish school and take her exams as planned, however her future looks bright as she hopes to attend a residential college in Hereford for students with visual impairments.
“I’m looking forward to the future,” she said. “The college has pretty small classes compared to mainstream schools and you live by yourself and learn to do things by yourself like travel, so I think it would be really good for my education and independence.
“I’m not quite sure what I want to do after that; I’ll see where life takes me.”