Last night at 10:00pm (AEST) the Australian Paralympic Football team, or the Pararoos as they are affectionately called, were defeated by Paralympic gold medallists Russia, and as a consequence were eliminated from the knock-out stages of the CP World Football Championships in England.
Having beaten Portugal 2-0, losing to the Republic of Ireland 4-1 and now the defeat at the hands of Paralympic gold medallists 5-0, some would say too little too late and if it were any other national team there would be condemnation of not only the coach and players, but the Football Federation Australia (FFA) hierarchy.
Unfortunately, as they sit on the bottom of the FFA Football Family priority ladder, you may see a ‘Brave Australian Pararoos go down to….’ article and that will probably be the end of it.
Eighteen months ago the Pararoo’s funding had been demolished by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) and Football Federation Australia under the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) ‘Winning Edge’ policy, stating that only successful Paralympic teams would be provided with funding even though the team, at the time were ranked 10th in the world.
After a public outcry and support from a number of media outlets like Channel 10’s, The Project, Football Federation Australia were coerced into revitalising the program with the help of the Australian Sports Foundation after partnered links were broken with the Australian Paralympic Committee APC.
However, what we must realise is that these athletes have only had four preparatory camps in the lead up to a major tournament and even though their hopes of Paralympic qualification are all but finished, they should be commended for their spirit and Aussie resilience after their eighteen month battle to reinvigorate their existence.
Current Paralympic gold medallists Russia signalled the end of the FFA #GoPararoos Olympic qualification campaign and so they should, they are professional players and play in professional leagues in Moscow.
The question now is, what is the FFA’s CEO David Gallop and Head of High Performance Luke Casserly going to do about it? Will they pay lip service to another football disability program like previous FFA CEO Ben Buckley did in 2012, or will they truly foster development in Paralympic football for athletes with a disability.
If the FFA supported the Pararoos like other football nations like the Netherlands, who have full time football academies for ‘footballers with a disability’, then that would be something and maybe, just maybe Australia could compete with the likes of Paralympic gold medallists Russia, but not only that, give respect and worth to a group of young men that are in the process of paving the way for future Pararoos.
By Paul Brown