Pararoos shrug off underdog status ahead of world championships
By Carly Laden
Paralympic footballers from across the globe have flocked to Argentina’s San Luis, for the International Federation of Cerebral Palsy Football World Championships (IFCPF), and Australia’s Pararoos are not looking to shelter behind their underdog status.
The competition is open to athletes with cerebral palsy or a related neurological condition, and the Pararoos are getting ready to kick off their IFCPF campaign with a group stage match against the USA on Tuesday morning.
But the team has a tough draw ahead of it, with a match against world number one Ukraine scheduled for later this week, followed by Northern Ireland.
Head coach Kai Lammert does not see his team as competition underdogs, despite being placed 16th in the world rankings and last in their group.
“We [just] want to continue to improve our game and play good and successful football,” he said.
Lammert said the Pararoos were well prepared for the weeks ahead, having trained together in four camps over the past 12 months.
He said despite an administration hiccup, the vibe among the team members was very positive and they were keen to get out on the field.
“We had some classification issues with one of our players classified out of the competition, but unfortunately this is all part of the game to enable a fair competition,” he said.
“Other countries are in the same boat.”
Lammert has coached the Pararoos since March 2015 and said he enjoyed working with such inspirational people.
He loves that the approach to football for the Pararoos is no different to the Socceroos or the Matildas.
“We may play at a smaller field with different rules, but when it comes to all other aspects of the game we are all the same,” he said.
“The inspiring part is not their disability and that they play football with it, it’s the fact that these boys train before they go to work or school and when they come home after work or school.
“The fact that the Pararoos never give up and always give 100 per cent is a given for us now, but I believe everyone can take some inspiration out of that.”
Aside from their ambition to conquer the IFCPF World Championships, the Pararoos are also looking to qualify for the IFCPF World Cup taking place in the Spanish town of Pinto in 2019.
Apart from a recent sponsorship deal with Sydney-based disability support service Zestcare, the Pararoos are relying on donations for their quest to make it to Pinto.
Lammert said while they were fortunate to secure a sponsor, more money needed to be raised for the team to be able to compete in as many games and tournaments as possible.
“All other teams have lead up games or tournaments while we haven’t played an international one for a whole year due to the obvious costs of flying, accommodation and food,” he said.
“It’s expensive wherever you go from Australia.
“Football Federation Australia is doing a great job in raising the funds together with the Australian Sports Foundation, but more is needed if we want to compete with the other countries.”
The Pararoos’ first IFCPF World Championship match will be against the USA with kick off on Tuesday at 7:00am (AEST).
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