Amputee football is a lifeline for many people who have suffered limb loss, giving them the chance to meet and compete with others who’ve gone through similar experiences, and get back out on the pitch.
To mark the end of
Limb Loss Awareness Month, we spoke to Owen Coyle Jr and Dave Tweed at the English Amputee Football Association (EAFA) to see how they’re coping with not being able to play the game they love.
But first the launch of our new #StayHomeStaySafe amputee football skill challenge...
We spend countless hours telling everyone just how brilliant amputee football is. The skill and athleticism shown in every single game really does have to be seen to be believed. So with so many of us at home during lockdown, we’re launching a challenge to showcase just how many talented players we have in this country.
Here’s Jamie Oakey who plays for Everton Amputees FC quite literally getting the ball rolling.
We’ll be sharing our favourite clips over the next month and then asking the public to vote for a winner.
A Virtual Catch Up With the Coaches
Owen Coyle Jr and Dave Tweed are the heartbeat of amputee football in the UK and have played a huge part in the growth of the game in recent years. With most sport currently on hold due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we gave them a call to see how they were doing and to talk about the beautiful game and brighter days ahead.
For those who don’t know you, can you tell us about your role and what you do for amputee football in the UK?
OC: My main role in the EAFA is Head Coach of the England set up. I select the best players within the domestic Irwin Mitchell National League to represent England in a provisional squad. Often that squad gets trimmed down to a final 13 players, who go on to play in the European Championship or World Cup.
Outside of that, I’m also running the day to day operations with Dave. This ranges from liaising with sponsors, the media and supporters who want to learn about amputee football and get involved, to overseeing the domestic league and our junior programme, which has grown massively over the past few years.
DT: I’m one of a small group of committed volunteers that runs the day to day operations of the charity as a whole, from answering contact forms from the website to find new players to planning the next year’s operations.
As Owen mentioned, we work together to coordinate and plan all our programs which is a big chunk of work. Oh, and I still play for Everton FC Amputees.
You clearly commit many hours of time and energy supporting amputee football – but why, what makes it so special?
OC: Unlike Dave, I’ve never played the game, but it’s just an incredible sport to watch live.
What the players can achieve on a set of crutches with one leg, or what the goalkeepers can achieve with one arm is nothing short of remarkable. When you see it up close and in person, the level of ability some of the players have really does strike home. It touches a chord of how incredible these people actually are.
DT: Put simply, it’s a really amazing game to play. You meet a wide variety of remarkable people that you share a common bond with; it’s basically like a large support group, regardless of what level you’re participating at, it’s one big happy family.
After losing a limb, you’d think that playing the beautiful game wouldn’t be a possibility - what does amputee football give people who’ve been through such a life changing experience?
DT: It gives you a sense of belonging, and a purpose - being part of a team is a unique thing and whether you’ve experienced that prior to losing a limb, or found the game having always been an amputee then it can be a life changer.
OC: I love the fact that it gives them a sense of hope and encouragement, and it gives them a real social community where they can feel comfortable, and like they can be a part of something.
The team mates they have will have gone through similar experiences, so in that respect I think that it’s quite unique. I don’t think they’d be able to find that anywhere else, particularly if they’re football fans. So for anybody that wants to get involved, I would hugely encourage them to do so.
It obviously takes quite a lot of training and hard work to play the sport – how long did it take you to reach the level you are today Dave?
DT: At the top end it’s a hugely demanding sport, but the beauty is that you can access it at an entry level and still gain a huge amount from it. Given the relatively low numbers on a national level there’s always the chance to better yourself and experience something that few do if you’re prepared to put some graft in, a little bit of natural talent will always help, but it isn’t essential.
And Owen, how do you help the players improve?
The big thing for anyone who’s lost a limb at some stage in their life is actually starting their journey, and their development as an amputee footballer. This can range from someone in their mid-20’s all the way to players in their late 30’s or 40’s.
Whatever it might be, we devise programmes for people to do away from training, and we’ve got our own sports science, strength and conditioning support through our medical teams, as well as the teams at the England training camps. Our clubs all have their own programmes to support their players on a physical level, whilst the coaches obviously help them on a tactical level to improve their ability.
Ultimately it’s down to the player and whether they’re able to dedicate the hours of hard work and training, which enables them to make a very complex game look easy to play.
Have the players been given specific training programmes to do at home or have they created their own?
OC: Yes they have. The players are following their own personal strength and conditioning programmes, which have been set out by our sports science team. Aligned with that we’ve also got virtual sessions that we’re running each week; we’ve got two HIIT sessions, a strength based training session, and we’ve also got a football session in there.
All the sessions are being done with minimal space and equipment, so it does prove a real challenge. Some of the things you want to achieve within a football session just simply isn’t possible, but we do our best to get by.
With the season on hold – what’s the one thing you miss most about it?
DT: Not too much as Everton weren’t doing too well haha… Seriously, the league is fantastic to play in, it’s combative, passionate and challenging but at the end of the day it does boil down to having a laugh with your mates, and getting out on the park with them. That’s what I miss the most.
OC: On a personal level a lot of my life usually circulates around football, however at the moment, tackling the virus is of course the most important issue. I think it’s fair to say that this reflects for a lot of people; it’s not just a case of people going to the match on a Saturday, there are a lot of people whose lives revolve around football from a business perspective, but then as fans as well, so it really is a challenging and difficult time.
But one thing for sure, when it gets back up and running it will be as good as ever.
This summer you were planning to take part in the Euros – what’s the latest on this?
OC: At this moment in time it’s still happening. We’ve been in regular meetings with the European Amputee Football Federation, and they’re quite confident we can still get it going ahead.
Naturally this is a very unsettling time for everybody, so we’re unsure how it’s actually going to play out. One thing is for certain; if it’s going to be a risk to anybody, then the competition simply won’t take place.
And finally Dave, you’re widely recognised as one of the best amputee football players to play the game – what’s does that mean to you, and what are your highlights?
DT: Well I’m not sure about that, but it is nice to hear. As Owen just mentioned the Euros, I’d have to say the 2017 European Championship final, in Turkey, against the hosts, in front of 42,000 hostile fans – it has to be my highlight. It gave me a real buzz and it was an honour to be part of it.
We are proud sponsors of amputee football in the UK. You can find out more about the work of
the EAFA here or find out more about getting into amputee football here.
Turning Point – May 2020
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