Amputee football has welcomed an important development via the creation of the European Amputee Football Federation, with plans under way for the game to expand further.
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The inaugural congress of the European Amputee Football Federation (EAFF) took place in Dublin in February. The gathering marked the creation of the new federation and an important milestone in the history of amputee football, which has now gained UEFA support.
"UEFA welcomes the European Amputee Football Federation to its Football for All Abilities portfolio," said Patrick Gasser, senior football social responsibility manager at UEFA. "We are looking forward to helping to create many more playing opportunities for EAFF players across Europe."
Amputee football is a rapidly growing discipline and a dynamic and spectacular game, with no shortage of on-field action. In Turkey, for example, 24 clubs exist, bringing together more than 550 players. The matches are broadcast on public television.
"There is a lot of work lying ahead of us, but with the support of UEFA, we have a new-found energy to move our game forward," explained newly elected EAFF president Mateusz Widłak. "Every new amputee football athlete who starts to train in Europe may, from now on, officially feel part of the football world."
With UEFA's backing, amputee and limb impaired children's football camps will soon be organised throughout Europe, as well as conferences for coaches and referees. The EAFF also hopes that the sport will become a Paralympic Games discipline.
The federation now has ten member countries: England, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Russia, Spain, Turkey and Ukraine. Belgium, Georgia and the Netherlands will also join in the near future.
At last year's Amputee Football World Cup in Mexico, 13 European teams were part of the 40-strong field, and three of them made it to the top four: Russia won the title, Turkey finished third and Poland came fourth. These are certainly encouraging signs for the future of amputee football in Europe.
The UEFA 'Football for All Abilities' portfolio now consists of six football development projects, including the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA), Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CPISRA), Special Olympics Europe Eurasia (SOEE), European Deaf Sport Organisation (EDSO), European Powerchair Football Association (EPFA) and, of course, the EAFF.