From the Disabilities Allies Advocacy Group:
When asked how to best describe amputee soccer, U.S. National Team Captain Nico Calabria stated “I would describe it as soccer meets demolition derby. So if you haven’t seen a video of it yet, you should go check it out. It’s intense. Its super physical, it is super-fast-paced, it’s hard-hitting. There are far more shots on net and it’s a higher scoring game.”
The national governing body of amputee soccer in the United States is the American Amputee Soccer Association (AASA) and they are affiliated with U.S. Soccer. The dual mission of the AASA is: To promote and develop the sport of Amputee Soccer in the United States for the benefit of participants with limb differences. Our outreach programs help interested players maximize their proficiency, build self-confidence, learn the power of team work, all while building a strong social network.
And to select, develop, and train athletes for the United States National Amputee Soccer Team (USNAST) which represents the country in all international competition and to provide financial assistance to cover the costs of travel and match play.
Long term, we’re working to have our sport recognized by the International Paralympic Committee and to participate in the Paralympic games
History of the game
The game was invented in America in 1982 by an active amputee by the name of Don Bennett in Seattle. Don, along with others took the game to Central America and Eastern Europe to help establish the game in other countries. The first international competition was held in 1984 between American, Canadian and Central American teams. By 1988, the first Amputee Soccer World Cup was being held with European teams joining North and Central American teams. In 1998, the first world governing body, the International Amputee Football Federation (IAFF) was formed in Moscow, Russia. The IAFF was replaced by the World Amputee Football Federation (WAFF), which now governs the sport globally.
The American Amputee Soccer Association is the governing body for Amputee Soccer in the US and is a member of the U.S. Soccer Federation. The highest finish in international competition for a US team is 12th place in the 2016 World Cup.
The World Cup is held every two years with over 20 countries across the globe participating.
A league of their own
Are international teams coed? What options are there for women?
Since 1982, the game has been co-ed, but starting in 2020 the women now have a league of their own. The first Women’s Amputee Soccer Tournament was scheduled for May 2020 but was postponed due to the current pandemic. The USA, Kenya, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Philippines have begun forming their National Women’s teams and plans are underway to host a separate World Cup event in the future as well.
- 7v7 (6 field players + Goalkeeper)
- Standard outdoor field – 60m x 40m
- Goals: 2m x 5m
- Ball: Standard FIFA size for appropriate age level
- Keepers must remain in penalty area
- Substitutions: Unlimited, may be made at any stoppage of play, players can return to game after being substituted
- Players cannot use residual limbs to control the ball, incidental contact is ok
- No prosthetics on the field. Metal forearm crutches must be used
- Two 25-minute halves with a 10-minute halftime
- No off-sides
Amputee is defined as one who is “abbreviated” at or above the wrist or ankle.
Field players may have two hands but only one foot. Keepers may have two feet but only one hand.
In the event there are not enough amputees to play at all times, the following exceptions can be made:
- Les Autres or “traditionally configured” (able-bodied) players can play
- Priority is always given to amputee or Les Autres players
- Traditionally configured players must play on crutches, have to remove shoe on non-kicking foot and may not touch the non-kicking foot down during play.
- A minimum of three amputee players must be on the field and there must be more amputee and Les Autres players than able bodied players.
Les Autres: This category is for Paralympic competitors whose disability does not fit under the other five categories (i.e. vision impairment, intellectual impairment, cerebral palsy, amputee or wheelchair). Examples of disabilities covered by this category are dwarfism, multiple sclerosis, and congenital deformities of the limbs. The term Les Autres is French for “the others”.
How are players identified for international play?
Youth players: They are most often found playing amongst their traditionally configured peers in local recreation and competitive soccer leagues. You must be 16 to be eligible for National Team selection and it’s at that age they start playing with adults if they have aspirations to play at an international level.
Adults looking to find a local team generally start by visiting the AASA website and connecting with a team member who can suggest a local contact. The AASA also works with the US Military and children’s hospitals across the country to conduct clinics and demonstrations helping to build awareness for amputee soccer. Those with limb differences learn about a sport in which they can express their athleticism, either recreationally or competitively with others like themselves.
As you might imagine, this soccer community is tight knit. When a player of exceptional athleticism and skill is recognized they are approached and invited to attend a national team training camp for further assessment and placement.
The international calendar is extensive for amputee soccer. As mentioned before, the World Cup takes place every two years and there are additional regional and friendly competitions in the off years. While the national team is affiliated with U.S. Soccer, it does not enjoy the financial support of the senior men’s and women’s teams. All travel costs are out-of-pocket for the athletes and coaches. Many of the national teams that we play against have governmental support, which allows them to send their very best players to every event. The game is so popular in Turkey that they have professional teams that play in large stadiums in front of tens of thousands of fans (see video below). As Nico Calabria states; “We are moving forward in the United States, but elsewhere, people are flying at light speed. They’re being supported from multiple directions and there is just a large number of people who want to play the game elsewhere.”
The best teams regularly come from Europe. Turkey, Germany, England, and Ukraine are always leading the pack but Africa has come on strong recently with the team from Angola defying everyone’s expectations in the last World Cup and upsetting Turkey in the final. The US is currently ranked around 15th in the world standings. To get a sense of the support received by amputee soccer in other countries, please watch the videos at the end of this blog.
How can you support Amputee soccer?
Dan Broome is the Vice President of the AASA, and a national team player. When asked what people need to know about amputee soccer he said; “Amputee soccer needs more players, funding, and partners to grow the game. Creating awareness is super impactful but we need to create a larger player pool with more competitions to play at the local levels to get to the next level of play”.
There are many ways you can support the game. Help create awareness of the game. Educate others of its existence. If you know an amputee, ask them if they would be interested in playing and help them find a team. Follow the national team on social media. Like, comment, and share their posts. Find a local game and bring some friends to watch. If there isn’t a local team, can you and your club help create or sponsor a team as an extension of your own club? Identify a national team member to support and help them raise the money needed to travel to their games.
If you would like to see and learn more, please visit these links:
World Amputee Football Federation: www.worldamputeefootball.org
American Amputee Soccer Association: www.ampsoccer.org
Soccer meets demolition derby: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JA1D6_jYygM
Amputee World Cup 2014, USA vs Japan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19o-B4KoK6U
Amputee footballer Jamie Tregaskiss: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-OV7pjis0Y
European Championship, Turkey vs England: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1plGKoRtna0