Proud Stroud can’t wait for Games to begin

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Keith Stroud insists his role in the forthcoming Paralympics is among the proudest moments in his refereeing career.

The Gosport official – who is a stalwart of the Football League – is among eight referees selected to take charge of the seven-a-side cerebral palsy football tournament between September 1-9 at the Riverbank Arena.

With 16 countries battling it out for the gold medal, Stroud is predicting a series of competitive fixtures at the venue used for hockey at the Olympics.

But the 42-year-old, who refereed Pompey’s pre-season game with Bolton, has revealed his delight at just being involved in the London 2012 showpiece.

Stroud said: ‘Every accolade is fantastic but to be involved with anything to do with London 2012 is right up there with my biggest achievements. I’m very proud to be part of it.

‘It’s every sportsman’s dream to be involved with something like this and to represent your country.

‘It’s fantastic. I’m really looking forward to it.’

Ukraine, Russia, Holland and Iran are among the favourites for the gold medal, while Great Britain will need to cause something of an upset to get their hands on the prize.

And while Stroud has refereed some highly-charged games in his past in the Football League, he is expecting nothing different at the Paralympics.

He said: ‘They have been running regional events for cerebral palsy football for the past 12 months all around the country.

‘Every now and again, I’ve turned up when the Football League have given me the days off and they have been very good about it.

‘Refereeing standard football to disability football is very different.

‘You’re not quite sure what to expect when you first go but I have done it six or seven times now and it’s very competitive. A major thing is having a bit of empathy for the game and the participants.

‘But they also want to be treated exactly the same as everyone else.

‘That’s the important thing to remember and it can be a difficult balance to strike.

‘Because of their disability, they may not be able to run so well or they may have other physical issues but they are all out there to win.

‘At some of the regional events, there have been a few red cards and quite a few yellow cards.

‘The games can be quite feisty and I’m expecting even more when people are competing for medals.’

Stroud will spend 14 days in the Olympic Village and is keen to make the most of the experience.

He smiled: ‘Hopefully, they will give me Usain Bolt’s old room but I will be keen to find out who stayed there before me!’

The London 2012 Paralympics begin on Wednesday.