Capital Football has this week launched a one-of-a-kind all-abilities league, ensuring those with a disability in the ACT have an opportunity to achieve their sporting goals.
The Canberra United All Abilities Academy already has 19 players living with cerebral palsy, a brain injury or symptoms acquired from a stroke, signed up to take part.
Players will train twice a week at the Hawker Football Centre with accredited coaches and will have the opportunity to represent Capital Football at the CP Football Nationals and the FFA National Futsal Championships.
Canberra United All Abilities Academy coach Kelly Stirton said the program, which is believed to be the first of its kind in a Hyundai A-League or Westfield W-League aligned club, would give players better opportunities.
“AWD or All Ability athletes don’t get the same options as other athletes so it was Capital Football’s goal to provide them with an option and to make their sport equal with everybody else’s,” she said.
“We want to make sure that each and every one of these footballers are supported 110%, regardless of their ability on and off the pitch.
“We want to give them an option so they can chase their dreams, whether that be playing football for the very first time or representing the Pararoos at the IFCPF World Cup.”
Fifteen-year-old footballer Luc Launder was one of the first to join the academy, saying it was a safe space for expression through sport.
“The Canberra United All Ability Academy has opened up many sporting pathways for people who may not have gotten the opportunity before,” Launder said.
“The Academy is also a good way for the more experienced players to help educate and support the younger and less experienced players like me.”
While COVID-19 delayed the launch of the Academy, the club is hoping to increase its numbers over the coming years.
Capital Football CEO Phil Brown encouraged anyone with an interest in the Academy to get in touch.
“The Academy is open to all; from experienced players like Jason Driscoll, who was part of the inaugural Pararoos squad in 1999, to some of our youngest footballers like 10-year-old Jayden Wallace-Bourne,” he said.
“We also have Tilda Mason who moved over from Perth to pursue her footballing career with the Academy.”