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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 3 June, 2020
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We say 'leg off, game on': Six children heading to Poland to represent Ireland in amputee soccer

The mother of one of the children said, “He never played football until he got his leg amputated, now he doesn’t go anywhere without a ball.”

JACK DOUGLAS HAD his leg amputated over two years ago after undergoing years of surgeries from when he got caught in a lawnmower when he was just two-years-old.

Today the 12-year-old is preparing to represent Ireland in the European Amputee Football Federation camp in Poland next month as part of the Irish Amputee Football Juniors academy.

His mother Siobhan told TheJournal.ie that before he had his leg amputated, he didn’t have a good quality of life.

“He was always in pain, or having surgeries but nothing worked out. He couldn’t do anything.”

Two years ago, he got his leg amputated and Douglas said, “It was the best decision we ever made”.

“He’s a new child, he was on so much medication, he wasn’t hungry and he was always frail.”

Just two weeks after his surgery, with stitches still in, he went along to the amputee football training ‘for a look’ but ended up getting stuck in.

Douglas said, “The next thing they had him out on the pitch and that was the end of it, we haven’t looked back.

It was the best day I ever had. I was terrified but it was so great to see him play. It was so special, from such turmoil to such delight.

“He felt so much freedom, he said ‘I can do this’.”

7130B988-B97B-459A-91BA-CE7A3D220097 Source: Siobhan Douglas

“The whole way home, all he was saying was ‘I’m going back, I’m going back’, there was no sitting around.

Soccer has been everything to him since. He never played football until he got his leg amputated, now he doesn’t go anywhere without a ball.

“We couldn’t be more thankful for finding out about the soccer. Nobody is looking at them training, he could train with a local team but he’d probably never get a game and that would knock his confidence more. This has been a lifeline for us and it’s a great outlet for the parents as well.”

‘Leg off, game on’ 

Last month Jack found out that he is one of six children that have been chosen to represent Ireland at the European Amputee Football Federation Junior camp in Poland in July.

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Founder and chairman of the Irish Amputee football federation, Simon Baker, told TheJournal.ie, “These fantastic kids are role models for other children with a disability or amputation.

“For some families when a child becomes an amputee whether through birth defect, illness or trauma, it can be a very daunting experience for the family and child.

It can leave the children with low self esteem and confidence but these kids, like others in our Junior Academy, prove that through sport and determination anything can be achieved – even representing your country.

There are 17 children playing football with the Irish Amputee Football Juniors academy at the moment but Baker wants to see that increase. “We say ‘leg off, game on’.”

“We’re very safety conscience but you can’t wrap children up in cotton wool. In school they’ll stand out for being an amputee so let them go out and give them a ball, they might fall, but the worst that’s going to happen is they’ll graze a knee.

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The first ever Junior Amputee Football Training Academy took place in Dublin last year. Over 30 children from five countries aged 6-16 received training from qualified coaches over three days.

Baker found amputee football when he became an amputee himself and he says it’s a growing sport that keeps getting bigger.

“Fifty-two countries are playing worldwide, there’s a World Cup every four years and the first ever European Championship will be held this year.

The only disability we have is other people. That’s the only time you hear me use the word ‘disability’ – we have ability, others have the disability.

Baker is encouraging other children to get involved.

The juniors are the future of our game and we hope that in Ireland and Europe the juniors of today will be the future stars of our game tomorrow.

The Irish amputee senior international squad is heading to Poland at the end of this month to play in a six nation cup in preparation for the European championships which will take place in October in Turkey.

Any children or adults who want to get involved with the Irish Amputee Foosball Association can go to the development day in Dublin’s Phoenix Park near the zoo on 1 July where they can try out the sport first hand and watch a senior international demo game.

Read: This amputee army veteran from Achill Island is going to row across the Atlantic>

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