Catching Up With the US National Amputee Soccer Team
During three days of demonstrations at the Schwan’s USA Cup, the American Amputee Soccer Association had hundreds of players, parents, and soccer fans stop by and take in the fastest game on one leg demonstrated by players on the US National Amputee Soccer Team.
On Thursday the AASA hosted a two-hour clinic meant to introduce the sport to new players and anyone else who is interested or curious. “We haven’t seen many amputees,” said National Team goalkeeper and AASA Vice President Eric Westover, “but we have had a lot of able-bodies out here. We like to get them up on crutches so they can see what it’s like and what amputee soccer is all about.”
During the clinic, USA Cup participants were given crutches and went through the acts of dribbling, passing, and shooting while only being allowed to use one leg at a time. Later in the clinic, the participants teamed up with and against National Team players to get a feeling for the pace the sport is played at. Also at the clinic were members of the Dark Clouds, the Minnesota Stars FC’s supporters group, helping out with shagging loose balls and even trying their hand and playing while on crutches.
Later that night, members of the US National Team took on a local able-bodied Minnesota team during half time of the Minnesota Stars FC game. In order to level the playing field the opponents were allowed to play on two feet. “If we put them on crutches we’d kill them,” joked Westover, but the players could only use one of their legs to dribble and shoot the ball while the opposing keeper could only use one arm.
In addition to getting new players and fans involved in the sport, the national team also benefits from the demos, exhibition games, and clinics in other ways. When IMS last spoke with Westover the team was looking for new sponsors. “With clinics and exhibitions like this we are really exposing the sport. We’ve talked to a few people here who are interested in the team.” Recently Storelli Sports has signed on as the official protective gear sponsor, but the team is always looking for more companies and organizations to get involved so they will be able to compete on the international level.
The National Team has also taken other steps to improve their level of support from the US Soccer Federation. Back in January the AASA was taking steps to become affiliated with the USSF and things have gone well. “We did receive our provisional USSF membership and at the next AGM we’ll be voted in as full members,” said Westover. Once the AASA gains full membership, the national team will have more financial backing and can look into participating in the Paralympics.
Until then, the US Team will concentrate on getting ready for the World Cup, though not this year, which is being hosted by Russia. “Unfortunately this year we will not be going to the World Cup,” said Westover. “We do not have a deep enough roster. It’s unfortunate, but we are really looking ahead to 2014 and developing the program here.” Even the 2014 tournament is in question because of the complications created by the natural disasters in Japan. Originally Japan was set to host the 2012 World Cup, when they were forced to drop out, Iran stepped in as the planned hosts for 2014. Unfortunately Iran was unable to host this year as well because of established federations policies. Whether or not Iran will be able to keep the 2014 bid has not been determined.
Up next the National Team will be in San Diego to host a clinic at the Balboa Naval Hospital July 26th. The team will also be holding another clinic and exhibition game in conjunction with the NPSL Championship weekend. For more details on the upcoming events visit the AASA website.