A FORMER St Richard Gwyn RC school pupil is signed up with Cardiff City FC with her dog is on hand to guide her.

Barry guide dog owner Chloe McBratney works for Cardiff City FC Community Foundation, the official charity of Cardiff City football club, as a multi-sports inclusion coach.

For the past two years, she has been visiting primary schools in and around Cardiff, teaching football to children with a variety of disabilities.

She also coaches players in the evenings at Barry Town United, having gained qualifications with the Football Association of Wales.


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Ms McBratney is blind in her right eye and has very limited vision in her left due to optic nerve hypoplasia, a condition diagnosed when she was a baby.

Despite this, she has an impressive sporting record and began playing football aged five.

She was was spotted by Cardiff City Girls Academy, and won five caps for Wales at basketball where she played alongside fully sighted team-mates.

“The coaches did not realise I had sight loss,” she said. “I wanted them to see me first.”

Ms McBratney studied sports coaching science in Worcester and went to Canada for five months as part of her course.

She said: “I was excited, but nervous as well, especially as I was staying with a family I had never met.

"They were amazing and helped me so much.

"They have become my second family.

"I go back there every year.”

She decided to apply for a guide dog three years ago after being diagnosed with macular hypoplasia, a degenerative condition which is taking her sight.

“At that time, I did not know how to use a long cane to get about independently,” she said. “Sam, a habilitation specialist for Guide Dogs Cymru, gave me mobility training and showed me how to use the cane.”

Barely six months after starting her job with Cardiff City, she had a phone call to say that she had been matched with guide dog Emily, a yellow labrador.

The pair trained together in Bristol for three weeks before coming home to Barry.

Ms McBratney said: “Emily has enabled me to get to the schools more easily, and the children adore her. Some of them are non-verbal and they will make noises at her, or just sit and smooth her.

"She’s like a therapy dog for pupils.”

Emily has a good temperament for the big occasion.

“We’ve been to Wales international games at the Cardiff City Stadium, cheered on the Cardiff Devils at ice hockey, and attended a lot of Cardiff City fixtures, where the players make a fuss of her," she added.

Last year, Ms McBratney was given the outstanding achievement award at the McDonald's FAW Grassroots Football Awards.

She and Emily have also travelled to London on numerous occasions.

“Emily made it so much easier for me on public transport, including the underground,” said Ms McBratney. “We’ve been to Madame Tussauds and the London Eye.

!Emily even has a pet passport.”

To find out more about the services offered by Guide Dogs, visit www.guidedogs.org.ukor ring 0345 143 0195.