The England Amputee Football Association is a charity organisation in the UK which provides people with limb differences the opportunity to play the beautiful game.
by Nikhil Sreekandan
Amputee football, strangely enough, doesn’t have its beginnings in England, the birthplace of Association football( also referred to as soccer). It was invented “by accident” in 1982 by Don Bennet of Seattle, Washington, USA. Today, the sport is played in more than 40 countries and presents its own World Cup.
The sport of amputee football is not that different from football. It is played with seven players on each team – six outfield players and one goalkeeper. The outfield players have lower-extremity amputation and goalkeepers have upper extremity amputation. The outfield players use forearm crutches and play without their prosthesis. You can learn more about the rules of the game here.
The sport was introduced to England in 1988 by Dr Gywnn Thomas as a rehabilitation activity. Later that year, England participated in the world cup in Seattle and won the indoor competition and won the bronze medal in the outdoor competition.
Two years later, in 1990, the England Amputee Football Association(EAFA) was registered as a charity and ever since the organisation has been tirelessly working towards promoting and developing the sport in England and Wales.
For Owen Coyle Jr., the EAFA head coach, amputee football is one of the most engaging disability sports to watch. The “quick-paced, aggressive and fair” nature of the game, and more importantly to see the players overcome their individual challenges to perform at such a high standard makes amputee football an exciting and invigorating sport.
Owen Coyle Jr. got involved with the EAFA back in 2013, in a voluntary capacity of supporting the development squad and junior players. His role developed from there to working and supporting the EAFA National League before he was offered the role of England head coach in October 2016. Owen’s role as the head coach is to lead and organise the England senior squad in preparation for fixtures, competitions and major tournaments like the WAFF World Cup, which is just around the corner.
The EAFA was set up in 1990 with the sole aim to optimise the opportunity for anyone with an amputation or limb deficiency to play football at a grassroots or international level. “The charity is one of the largest amputee football organisations worldwide and is a leading light on many new amputee football projects,” says Owen.
The EAFA at a grassroots level is supported by a variety of partners such as Irwin Mitchell and has some support from The FA. However, at the national level, the team is supported by Simply Business (SB) and other businesses/organisations, but it is always a challenge for the players to raise the amount of money required to attend tournaments etc. “Despite the support from Simply Business, each player in the England team this year has to raise £1500 to represent their country at the WAFF World Championships due to the lack of support at the national level,” explains Owen.
When asked about England’s chances in this year’s world cup which is to be held between October 24 and November 5 in Mexico, Owen says, “I am confident that we can go all the way, however, like any tournament we will need our fair share of luck. But, the players we have are more than capable of beating any team in the world. We will continue to work hard on the training ground to try and make the dream into a reality.”
In England, the sport isn’t very well recognised, owing to the limited support from the FA, the Premier League et al. However, last year, when the national team played in the EAFF Championship, it was in front of 42,000 at the Vodafone Arena – home of Besiktas (Turkish cub). So, in certain countries, it is vastly popular and the game is clearly making positive strides forward on the European level at least.
Despite the support from Simply Business, each player in the England team this year has to raise £1500 to represent their country at the WAFF World Championships due to the lack of support at the national level.
Sports like amputee football not only has an impact on the lives of the differently-abled but positively improves the lives of anyone and everyone involved with the sport. Owen says, “The sport gives everyone an opportunity to participate regardless of their level and for some becomes a real integral part of their day to day life, like any mainstream footballer, coach or football fan.”
If you are interested in getting involved with the sport, the EAFA is waiting to hear from you. “Anyone who is looking to get involved please get in contact, we are always looking for new players,” says Owen Coyle Jr.
Nikhil Sreekandan is a journalist with a desire to explore life through the stories he chases. An engineer who found recluse in the world of words, he is a journalism post-graduate from Cardiff University. He works as a content editor at Nature inFocus, India’s leading platform for nature and wildlife. When not lost in cinema, contemporary literature or his earphones — there is a genuine attempt at ‘giving chase’, and it is beautiful.