A TEAM of Scottish amputee football players is to play in a tri-nation tournament in the Netherlands.
Amputee Football Association Scotland (AFAS), the charity responsible for developing and promoting the sport in Scotland, will send a squad of 12 Scottish players to Breda in the Netherlands on Friday, where they will compete in a two-day tri-nation tournament against national teams from The Netherlands and Germany.
The trip is being made possible thanks to sponsorship from J W Muir Group, the Fife-based contractor, housebuilder and property developer.
It will be the first-time Scotland has been represented in amputee football, marking a significant step forward in disability sport in Scotland, and with some of football’s biggest names backing them, the team looks set to make its mark on the European stage.
Inverkeithing-based Muir Group stepped up to offer financial assistance on hearing of the charity’s appeal for funding through one of its own employees, Iain Matthew.
Iain, of Markinch in Fife, who had his right leg amputated at the age of three, began playing amputee football with Partick Thistle Amputees in March this year.
When Iain told his employers of the opportunity to play abroad and the charity’s plight for funding, they stepped in as sponsor to ensure a Scotland squad would make its European debut.
AFAS was set up in October 2016 with the aim of developing amputee football teams at SPFL clubs across Scotland.
The charity has witnessed a surge in demand for the sport and there is now a well-established junior and senior squad enjoying fortnightly training sessions with Partick Thistle Community Trust.
The team currently competes in the English Amputee Football League against amputee teams including Manchester City, Arsenal, Brighton, Portsmouth and Everton.
AFAS, which is endorsed by the Scottish Football Association (SFA), has enjoyed the backing of Northern Ireland manager MICHAEL O’NEILL and Jags boss Alan Archibald, both of whom have championed the work of the charity in recent months.
Edinburgh based O’Neill visited Partick Thistle Amputees as guest coach last year and has been an ambassador for the growth of the sport in Scotland.
Ashley Reid, founder of Amputee Football Association Scotland, said: “Amputee football is a relatively new discipline in Scotland so to see our player numbers grow so rapidly in such a short time is testament to the demand that exists for the sport.
“Our aim is simply to provide the opportunity for anyone with an amputation or limb difference to play football on a level playing field in a fun and safe environment.
“To see Scotland in a position whereby we can send a squad to compete on a European level is of huge significance – not only for the players but for disability sport in Scotland generally.
“As a very young charity, our funds are minimal and this trip would not have been possible without the generosity of Muir Group.”
John Muir, Chairman of Muir Group said: “We at Muir Group are honoured and delighted to sponsor the Scottish amputee football team for their first ever European competition. When Iain brought it to our attention that the team wouldn’t be able to take part in this competition without financial backing, we knew we had to step in and help. It’s fantastic to see amputee football really starting to take off in Scotland, and everyone at Muir Group wishes the team all the very best of luck in the competition and beyond.”
Iain Matthew, who has worked at Muir Group since June 2016, said: “I’ve played mainstream football for most of my life but had to stop due to health issues in the past. Amputee football has given me a new lease of life. I’m fitter and have made a great group of friends.
“The opportunity to travel to The Netherlands seemed like a dream and I’m proud that my own employers stepped up to make sure that dream could come true for the squad.
“I’ve seen the standard of our European counterparts so I’m a little nervous but I’m looking forward to the experience.”
Amputee Football Association Scotland is governed by the European Amputee Football Federation (EAFF).
The charity is completely self-funded by public donations and receives no funding from Scotland’s football governing bodies. Anyone wishing to support AFAS to send the team to Holland can do so by donating at www.amputeefootballscotland.co.uk