The lower levels of the football pyramid allow more than just players to progress through the ranks. Semi-Professional sat down with a footballing medical team member who went from step 7 all the way to International Football.

Gary Faber is the current Head of Medical for the England Amputee Football Team, who journeyed through years of work in the NHS, non-league football pyramid, professional and Premier League clubs to reach his current position.  

Faber was given the opportunity with a funded degree to move his career forward following his passion for football.

“I started my career as a physiotherapy assistant in a hospital when I was 18, then after two years they allowed me to go off to university, which was amazing. I spent the next four years studying and working, full time. I got fully qualified and then I did many many years in the NHS, and then from there branched into professional football,” he said.

His professional football medical team career started in 2005 at Chatham Town FC, who at the time played in the Southern League Eastern Division, step seven of the English football pyramid.

“Back then it was a roll your sleeves and get your hands dirty, get involved job. A very small team environment but a really good experience.”

From non-league, Faber’s career grew after moving to Charlton to work in and amongst the academies, before moving to Premier League side, West Ham United.

“I would never be beyond going back to that level, I still enjoy working with lads like that, and then going off and working with England Internationals. I think if you have a good ability to communicate and you’re a people person as a physiotherapist, you can kind of translate it across all levels, it doesn’t really matter where you are. I just think at the Premier League, it’s the money, its the glamour, it’s the pressure and you just become a number rather than an important person.”

Having won the Nations League competition last year, Faber and his team have their sights set on the upcoming Euro 2024 tournament. The amputee competition will run alongside Euro 2024, starting in early June. 

“A lot of people don’t realise that we have a men’s National Amputee Football team. I’ve been to different countries for multiple different tournaments. We had the World Cup in 2022 which was a great experience and we actually won the Nations League last year, a lot of that side of the amputee football goes unrecognised,” he told Semi-Professional.

Having started his career in physiotherapy at the lower levels of the football pyramid, Faber’s passion for the non-league game is clear and he believes its importance is ‘vital’ for the higher levels to succeed. 

“It’s essential, without that sense of community, what happens is you’ll burn out, you lose motivation. I think without a support network in place for professionals to come together, to discuss or vent or relieve some of that stress, you are only going to survive so long. If a non-league team is playing Tuesday and Saturday most weeks, and a lot of these people are juggling jobs, lives, and families on top of that, there is just no downtime.

“The biggest issue I have within football is that there is no real HR, there’s no real annual leave. You can’t just take a holiday when you want, you cram your holidays into basically June and that’s it. I think the support network and flexibility with your peers, I just think it is something that has been greatly missed out on, and I think it should be a priority to be developed.”

With thousands of non-league games happening every week, the opportunity to watch local clubs is abundantly easy. 

“I think in the current climate that we are all experiencing, it would also be a really good cheap experience as well. Take your kids along and get them involved and a lot of non-league clubs have got academies and pathways and they are very family-friendly, so I think the difficulty for the clubs is actually getting the recognition again and just letting people know that this is out there.

“I think in all honesty I’ve always thought that football was football, whether it’s a game down the park or the World Cup final.

“I think if people could spare a little bit of their time to get down to their local club and watch the football that is around them, I think they would be actually quite surprised at how high the quality and standard can be.”

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