A FOOTBALL-loving teenager celebrated her 17th birthday while representing Great Britain at the Deaflympics in Turkey.

Talented goalkeeper Molly Ripley, from Didcot, was part of the women’s football team, who narrowly missed out on a bronze medal following a match with Brazil.

The former Didcot Girls’ School pupil, who started playing football aged seven, was born with bilateral high frequency hearing loss and wears hearing aids.

She said: “After many months of training and hard work I was lost for words when I found out I had been selected to represent Great Britain at the Deaflympics.

“It was an amazing feeling to be in the starting lineup for the very first game of the tournament.

“I felt honoured that they had confidence in me but also a little scared at the enormity of it, as I didn’t want to let my team down.”

Molly played in the first two matches of the tournament and was called up again for the bronze medal playoff game with Brazil.

Hopes of a medal were high when they took an early lead but with 30 minutes left on the clock the Brazilians equalised and then pulled ahead in the closing minutes, winning 2-1.

The teenager revealed said: “Losing the bronze medal match against Brazil was the worst feeling ever, I felt like I’d let my team down.

“However, all of the team were so supportive of each other and kept reminding me that football is a team game – we win as a team or lose as a team. Everyone was there for each other, the support was amazing.”

The 2017 Deaflympics were held between July 18 and 30 in Samsan, Turkey, with Great Britain coming away with nine medals; three gold, two silver and five bronze.

The games originated in 1924 and have brought together the world’s best hearing impaired athletes every four years since then, excluding during WWII.

Proud mother Debi Ripley, 50, said it was frustrating to see a lack of coverage of the games.

She explained: “There’s massive support from family and friends but outside that people didn’t seem to know it was happening.

“I think it was felt by all of the parents that the worst part was trying to find a way to watch the matches.

“Very few of them were live streamed and we were relying on a friend sitting in the stands using their phone and Facebook Live to keep up.”

The mother-of three added a lack of financial support was also an ongoing problem for deaf athletes.

She said: “It’s hard when each of them has to raise the money to get them out there because there’s no support from the Government. It takes them away from training.”

The team required over £125,000 to participate in the event, and secured support and financial backing from ex-Manchester United and England skipper Gary Neville, as well as Stoke and England goalkeeper Jack Butland.

For Molly what made the games extra special was the opportunity to get to know other athletes with hearing impairments.

She said: “The experience of meeting deaf athletes from all the other countries and sports, was amazing.

“I particularly enjoyed the whole team experience of Deaflympics, not only within my football team but within all the other sports – everyone was so supportive we became like one big family.”

Despite only having recently returned from the games Molly already has her sights firmly set on 2021.

She said: “Now I’ve had a taster, I’m really excited for the next Deaflympics and my goal is to be selected again.”