Sam Croash, aged 10, from Longford, is in Rome this week for a sports camp like no other, as he is participating in the European Amputee Football Federation junior training camp.
From Wednesday, July 4 to Sunday, July 8, Sam and nine other young people from Ireland will join children from across Europe for the event.
Around 70 young people, ranging from five through to 16 years old from 10 countries across Europe, all of whom have suffered an amputation or limb deficiency, will be in the Italian capitalfor a weekend of intense football training and sporting festivities.
Supported by UEFA, this is the third year of the highly acclaimed amputee football junior camp, the first of which took place in Dublin in 2016 before moving to Warsaw last year.
In addition to Sam, Ireland will be represented in Rome by Conall Gillespie aged 8 from Cavan, and Chloe Hensey aged 9 from Offaly, Leo Smith aged 9 and Jack Douglas aged 13 both from Meath, Conor Dufficy aged 9 from WestMeath, Eanna Kelly aged 8 from Dublin, Kieran McCartney aged 15 from Tipperary, Darragh Hodgins aged 11 from Laois and David Hernon aged 12 from Galway.
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Amputee Football Festival
The annual junior camp is the latest project from EAFF and follows a month long European Amputee Football Festival which saw promotional games and inclusion activities taking place in EAFF member countries throughout May. The four-week celebration of amputee football kicked off at the UEFA Champions League Festival in Kiev, where amputee teams from Poland and the Ukraine were invited by UEFA to go head to head to showcase the discipline to the crowds.
Brazilian football legend Cafu was there supporting the game as official UEFA ambassador, to the delight of players and fans who saw Poland take victory over Ukraine. Cafu even took to crutches himself to get a feel for the challenges and intricacies of the sport when played on one leg.
From Italy, Ireland, Turkey and Scotland to Germany, Poland, Russia and France, the discipline of amputee football has grown rapidly in recent years, with an increasing number of countries introducing the sport at club and international level.
As one of the fastest growing disabled football variants in the world, a raft of footballing legends have pledged their support to amputee football, including Brazilian legend Robert Carlos, former Irish international Roy Keane, Polish legend Robert Lebandowski, Irish international manager Martin O’Neill, Portugal’sRenato Sanchez and Pedro Pauleta and Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill MBE who regularly surprises the Scottish amputee football team by dropping in to training.
Amputee football began in Ireland in 2013, set up by Senior Players Simon Baker and Christy McElligott (FAI).