This January, in an Australian first, teams of athletes with disabilities in electric wheelchairs will compete in the Asia Pacific Oceania (APO) 2013 Powerchair Football Zone Championship on January 24–26.
The coach who took the Socceroos to their first World Cup finals in 1974, Rale Rasic, will take on the role of games ambassador for this inaugural event, hosted and organised by The Australian Powerchair Football Association (APFA), along with the support of disability service provider Northcott. ‘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, who also coached the Australian Powerchair Football team in the 2011 World Cup in Paris.
This January’s APO Championship will be held at Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre, with the minister for sport and recreation, the Hon Graham Annesley MP, officially opening the competition on Wednesday January 24 at 2pm. Fittingly, the grand finals will be held on Australia Day, Saturday 26 January.
Australia will be competing against Singapore and Japan. Japan is flying in two teams of seven players especially for the occasion. They are the powerhouse team in the APO zone, being the 2007 World Cup runners-up and placing fifth at the 2011 World Cup.
‘Powerchair Football is a sport that does not focus on your disability, age or gender, just your passion to participate in a team at a level you wish to challenge yourself at, be it local or playing for your country,’ says Matt Cross, president of APFA and father of athlete Jacob Cross, who is representing Australia in the competition. ‘The skill displayed by the athletes as they combine their chairs’ speed and power with their talents is phenomenal.’
APFA is the body that governs Powerchair Football nationally. The popularity of the sport is rising in Australia and is now one of the fastest growing sports for power wheelchair users in the world, with over 20 countries across four continents competing since the international version of the sport was created in 2006.
Northcott, one of the leading disability service providers in NSW, is a major sponsor of the APO Championship and is proud to have six clients supported by its recreation service as members of the Australian team, including 22-year-old Peter Dalrymple. ‘I first joined Northcott when I was nine years old through the recreation service. This service, which I still use, gave me the opportunity to be myself around my peers. I know that if Northcott were not part of my life, the things that I have achieved probably wouldn’t have happened.’
Northcott is a not-for-profit organisation that provides support to more than 11,400 children and adults living with a disability, and their families and carers, across NSW and the ACT. For more information and to donate visit www.northcott.com.au.