Today in Sydney, an Australian first. A team of athletes with disabilities in electric wheelchairs will compete in the very first Asia Pacific Oceania (APO) 2013 Powerchair Football Zone Championship at Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre.
‘When you see these guys play, the passion they show and how they meet the challenges put before them you start to wonder who has the disability – them or us,’ says Rale Rasic, former Socceroos coach and ambassador for the APO Championship.
The APO Championship will be officially opened this afternoon by the minister for sport and recreation, the Hon Graham Annesley. Games will continue on Thursday and Friday, with the competition coming to a head at the grand finals, which will fittingly be held on Australia Day, Saturday 26 January.
Australia will be competing against Japan, who are flying in two teams of seven players especially for the occasion. They are the powerhouse team in the APO zone, placing third in the 2007 World Cup and fifth at the 2011 World Cup.
The APO Championship is hosted by the Australian Powerchair Football Association (APFA), along with the support of disability service provider Northcott. ‘It’s a huge honour to represent Australia at any event but to be able to represent my country on home soil is something I never imagined would ever happen, so this makes these games even more special for myself and the rest of the Poweroos team,’ said 25-year-old Andy Waite, who is playing for Australia in the APO.
‘Up to now we’ve only played overseas and as it’s an expensive exercise we haven’t had a huge Australian contingent. As we’re playing in Australia we’re expecting a good turnout of support. It’s the first time an international sporting event for electric wheelchairs will be played in Australia and it will be quite a while before we ever have this opportunity again, so come support the Poweroos as we take on the might of Japan and see what we do best!’