It was a very sad day when the FFA and the Australian Sports Commission opted to withdraw funding for the Australian Paralympic football program, but maybe after all they knew something the rest of us didn’t.
This week the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Governing Board gave seven-a-side football the boot for the 2022 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, but five-a-side football will be staying as part of the games.
Seven-a-side football has featured at every Paralympic Games since the Los Angeles Games in1984 and will still be played in Rio. Sailing is another sport that has been dropped from the Paralympic program. Replacing these two sports will be The two canoe and triathlon, while Taekwondo and Badminton will debut in Tokyo.
The reason for seven-a-side football losing its Paralympic status is apparently because it failed to fulfil the IPC’s minimum criteria of worldwide participation. The IPC state that “only team sports widely and regularly practised in a minimum of 24 countries and three IPC regions will be considered for inclusion in the Paralympic Games and for individual sports a minimum of 32 countries in three IPC regions.” So maybe the FFA in fact contributed to its demise.
Maybe FIFA as many suspect only paid this part of the game lip-service and its “Inclusion” policy is far from inclusive.
IPC president Sir Philip Craven said after the meeting in Abu Dhabi that “To reach this decision, the IPC undertook the most extensive and rigorous review process ever of all the sports which started in November 2013. All were assessed against the same criteria and our aim all along has been to ensure that the final Tokyo 2020 Paralympic sports programme is fresh and features the best Para-sports possible. The Board’s final decision was not an easy one and, after much debate, we decided not to include two sports – football 7-a-side and sailing – from the Tokyo 2020 programme for the same reason. Both did not fulfil the IPC Handbook’s minimum criteria for worldwide reach.”
For all those athletes who worked so hard to give the game recognition in Australia, and were dedicating themselves to ensuring Australia gained a Paralympic berth this must be the bitterest pill to swallow and brings to an end a dreadful six month period in their sporting careers.
Hopefully they will unite globally and ask why the game did not spread, why FIFA did not in fact promote this facet of football more around the world to ensure that it was kept in the Paralympic Games, after all the sport needed the Paralympic Games far more that Football needs the Olympic Games; but as we all know when it comes to the Olympics the IOC need football as it generates in excess of 33% of their revenue.
Sad days indeed. Hopefully though those who love the game will get behind these athletes and work hard for the sport to grow and be reintroduced to the Paralyimpic Games post Tokyo.