Mt Samson’s Andrew Pope is one of the original players of the Brisbane Paralympic Football Program.
Football players with a disability have been given a boost with a new agreement forged between Westside Football Club and the Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association.
Under the arrangement, the Brisbane Paralympic Football Program, for footballers with a physical disability such as cerebral palsy or an acquired brain injury, will become an official program of the Westside club, with players to receive the same benefits as other club members.
Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association CEO Ray Epstein said the agreement was a major step forward for the program, which started in 2006 under program officer and head coach Jay Larkins, whose son Jarrod has cerebral palsy.
“It’s always been an inclusive, family-oriented program where players with a disability could develop their skills and play football with their siblings in a supportive environment,” Mr Epstein said.
“We started with seven footballers with a disability in 2006, and now have around 25 footballers, including four who have gone on to become members of the national Paralympic football squad.”
Under the new agreement, the Brisbane Paralympic Football Program will become an official program of Westside Football Club, and players will receive the same benefits as other club members.
Mt Samson’s Andrew Pope, one of the original and longest-serving players of the program, believes he and other players have a lot to gain from Westside taking over the program.
“We will now feel like a part of the club rather than just visitors, and we can be involved in all other aspects of the club, supporting other Westside teams, working in the canteen, or helping out with fundraising,” he said.
Westside Football Club President Shane Downey said the club was delighted to welcome the players and their families as club members.
“It’s a win-win for all involved – we gain new members and potential volunteers, and our coaching staff get the chance to develop their skills by working with players of all abilities,” he said.
“The players get the chance to develop their skills and link into other club development programs and local competition opportunities.”
A come and try day for Paralympic football will be held at Westside Football Club, at Hanran Street, Keperra on 26 February from 1.30pm. Phone 3253 3333.