Above: The ParaMatildas players and coaching staff today. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia (Getty Images).
Football Australia today announced the launch of the ParaMatildas, Australia’s first national team for women and girls with cerebral palsy (CP), acquired brain injury (ABI), and symptoms of stroke.
A first in the Asia-Pacific region, the ParaMatildas become the 10th member of Australia’s national teams’ family and the first new senior national team in 22 years.
Football Australia CEO, James Johnson, is delighted to welcome the ParaMatildas to the fold.
“Today is a momentous occasion for Football Australia as we celebrate the inclusion of the ParaMatildas in the Australian football family,” he said.
“With the launch of the ParaMatildas we are closing the gap in Australian football and ensuring that women and girls have the same pathways as men and boys in our game. This announcement is the result of years of incredible commitment, hard work and belief from many people in our football community, and it will be transformative for our All Abilities programs.”
“With Australia co-hosting the Women’s World Cup 2023 in 500 days, and as a global leader in women’s football, we now plan to leverage this milestone event to develop a sustainable, world-class ParaMatildas program. This will demonstrate to women and girls with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury or symptoms of stroke that football is a game which they can enjoy and excel, and that their achievements will be celebrated by an Australia that embraces diversity.”
More than 2.2 million women and girls live with disability, with 700,000 Australians living with an ABI and one in six Australians set to have a stroke in their lifetime.
CP football is a seven-a-side sport with smaller goals, 30-minute halves, and no offside. Players are classed as FT1, FT2, and FT3 depending on how their disability affects a player, with at least one FT1 player and a maximum of one FT3 player required to be on the pitch at all times.
A long-standing All Abilities coach and program coordinator, ACT’s Kelly Stirton will be the ParaMatildas inaugural Head Coach. Stirton expressed her pride at being named Head Coach and how the potential impact of the ParaMatildas cannot be understated.
“As a Head Coach in the All Abilities space, this has been a dream of mine to be able to take a team at the national level,” Stirton said. “Being able to say I’ve coached an Australian team has been a dream because we now have a pathway created from young children to adults and the ability to say to players that they can represent their country.”
“This team will stand proudly alongside their Commonwealth Bank Matildas teammates as iconic female footballers and that is an incredible visual that we are portraying as a sport.”
ParaMatilda and London 2012 Paralympian, Georgia Beikoff, said: “This will be an absolute dream come true for all of us. Knowing this will create opportunities to break barriers around the stigma of disability is something that we are all ecstatic about.”
“The girls and I have all faced all sorts of challenges growing up, living with a disability that has been incredibly tough. To platform what we bring as women with CP, ABI, or with symptoms of stroke as a national football team, I believe will help pave the way for young girls and boys living with a disability in Australia to face life with a determined and fierce spirit.”
“We are so stoked to be able to don the green and gold and join that national team family at Football Australia. In launching a team like the ParaMatildas, I truly believe we will represent and further contribute to the values of diversity, inclusion and a sense of belonging that our sport upholds.”
The ParaMatildas will hold their first camp in April as they prepare to compete in the inaugural IFCPF Women’s World Cup in Spain. The tournament will take place from 8-18 May 2022.
Australians can get behind the ParaMatildas’ World Cup campaign by making a tax-deductible donation to the team here. Every donation over $2 made to the squad is tax-deductible and will go directly to supporting national team training camps, coaching, sports science, and tournament costs to ensure that the ParaMatildas have the best possible chance to represent Australia on the world stage.
Another way to support the ParaMatildas, while also supporting the Commonwealth Bank Matildas, is to purchase a ticket to Australia’s upcoming international friendly against New Zealand at Canberra’s GIO Stadium. $1 from every ticket sold will be donated to the ParaMatildas. Tickets to CommBank Matildas v New Zealand are on sale