Returning from the CP Football World Championships in England, head coach Kai Lammert had mixed feelings about the tournament, the results and the future of Paralympic Football.
With only four preparatory matches before the tournament it was always going to be difficult for the Aussies and they couldn’t quite continue the form that they had shown in the first match, later going down to eventual gold medalists Russia 4-0 and taking them out of the qualification race for the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Lammert inferred that getting the Pararoos back on track and raising awareness of the Pararoos and obtaining funding with the help of the Australian Sports Foundation was the first and most important step in the development of the program.
The future seems brighter than it did a year ago after the axing of the program by the Australian Sports Commission and Football Federation Australia and there are currently plans to host an Australian based tournament and possibly participate in internationals against Portugal and possibly the Ukraine.
The Young Pararoos will be participating in the U19 Youth World Cup, which will take place from 6-16 August 2015 and will be held at the Harvey Hadden Sports Complex in Nottingham, England.
There are plans to initiate a ‘mini’ Pararoos program for players seven to twelve years of age and a women’s team, but first and foremost the goal is to start knocking on the door of the top ten in the world and compete successfully against teams like Canada and Portugal who are currently ranked tenth and eleventh respectively.
When asked about steps to achieve this goal Lammert identified player recruitment as a priority as the national team seems to be somewhat hindered by a small player pool. To be eligible for the Pararoos, players must have symptoms of Cerebral Palsy or Acquired Brain Injury and have a certain amount of athleticism and motor control.
After the reinstatement of the Pararoo program it seems they have recently been hit with another setback, being told by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) that Paralympic football will not be held in the Tokoyo 2020 Paralympics.
The IPC reasoning behind the cutting of the sport was that CP football did not have a global reach and not enough countries played the sport and yet in 2014, 42 countries competed, far more than the usual 24 required to be nominated as a Paralympic sport.
“Organisations were asked to provide credible proof, and we believe that despite the number of teams who may have competed in 2014, these are not regularly practiced enough,” said an IPC official referring to the inadequate one page report presented by the governing body.
The Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CPISRA) have set up an online petition to have the decision overturned and have taken steps to develop new partnerships with national Paralympic Committees and FIFA affiliated football member national associations.
“One of CPISRA’s long term targets is for the football to be incorporated with UEFA and subsequently FIFA,” said Tom Langen, President of CPISRA.
Despite the knockbacks Lammert and his players stand resolute that their program and the sport will continue and prosper.
Players with Cerebral Palsy or Acquired Brain Injury interested in representing their country may contact Football Federation Australia for details.
By Paul Brown