Amputee Soccer - The Beginnings

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Compiled by  Richard Hofmann, USA, and
                    James Frere, England

1980 - The First Kick

Don Bennett invented the game "by accident" in 1980. He's still active in the game and most recently help develop the sport in Mexico

Don Bennett, of Seattle, Washington, USA, was always active - skiing, boating, mountain climbing. Then he lost his leg to a propeller in a boating accident. That may have changed his style of activities, but not his love for or his level of activity.

One example of his drive to remain active: Don became the first amputee ever to climb Washington's Mt. Rainier (the second highest peak in North America) on crutches.

Simple Beginnings: Don Bennett created amputee soccer by accident. True.

He was watching his son practice basketball in his back yard. At one point a basketball escaped and began rolling down the driveway. Don, on crutches and without his prosthesis, simply raised up on his crutches and kicked the ball back to his son.

In a flash of insight, Don figured if he could kick a basketball on crutches, he could kick a soccer ball on crutches. It was a deceptively simple beginning to what's become a world-wide sport.

At the time Bennett was more involved with skiing than soccer. So he and a group of seven other skiers used the game to keep active and stay in condition during the summer while waiting for ski season.

But the game caught on.

Founder Don Bennett center, in white T-shirt, and the very first amputee soccer team.

In 1986 Bill Barry, a soccer coach with Canadian and US pro team experience, became the coach of a team under the Seattle Handicapped Sports and Recreation Association (SHSRA). He eventually established Amputee Soccer International. Bennett continued to serve as the team's manager.

It was through his efforts, with the assistance of Don and other members of the Seattle group, that the sport was established in other countries.

Barry traveled through Central America and Eastern Europe introducing the game to anyone who would come out and watch.

The sport was designed to be played by all amputees. Women were among the first players and have competed in international competition.

Rules were also implemented to allow "able bodied" players to fill-in when there were not enough amputees in an area to form a team.

At that time The Soviet Union declined to have anything to do with the game because they claimed not to have any handicapped persons.

1984  The first international amputee soccer tournament is held in Seattle, Washington, USA. American Canadian and Central American teams participate.

For the first several years of the game the goals remained regulation size and the game was played on a regulation American style football field.

The Boeing Aircraft Company became a major supporter of the game, sponsoring annual international championship events between 1986 and 1991.

One of Barry's skills was to attract media attention through a series of exhibition matches held in conjunction with other major sporting events:
1984 A match at Seattle Memorial Stadium before 8,000 people during the US Olympic Soccer Team Tour
1985 A match before 25,000 fans at a Seattle Mariners New York Yankees baseball game at the Seattle King Dome
1986 A match seen by 47,000 fans during at halftime at a Canadian professional football game.
1994 SoccerFest at the LA Convention Center during the World Cup tournament, and during halftime of an Anaheim Splash (MISL) match in the same time frame.

1987  Pitch and goal size and other rule adaptions adopted to make the game our own.

El Salvador military veterans win the World Cup. A star player nicknamed "Rambo" for his ever present headband, has a El Salvadoran postage stamp struck in his honor.

1988  Amputee soccer introduced in England by Dr. Gwynn Thomas, British Amputee Sports Association, as a rehabilitation activity. Later in the year England sent a team to Seattle for the 1988 World Cup.

England won the indoor competition and took the Bronze behind El Salvador (Gold) and USA) Silver in the outdoor competition.

1989  Barry introduces amputee soccer in Uzbekistan.

1989  Russia and Brazil establish amputee soccer programs and send teams to the championships.

1991  World Cup tournament, Tashkent, Uzbekistan. First World Cup held outside North America.

Latter Day Amputee Soccer

Amputee Soccer provides an arena where individuals from all cultures and points of view can come together in friendship and sportsmanship.

1998, February  Amputee Soccer web site launched.

1998, August  World Cup Championships, Manchester, England.
           Gold - Russia
           Silver - Uzbekistan
           Bronze - Brazil

1998, December  The game's first formal governing body, the International Amputee Football Federation, is formed in Moscow, Russia. Georgi Lunacharsky, Russia, President.

1999  First Open European Championships, Kiev Ukraine.
           Gold - Brazil
           Silver - Russia
           Bronze - Uzbekistan

2000  20th Anniversary World Cup - Seattle, Washington, USA.
           Gold - Brazil
           Silver - Russia
           Bronze - Ukraine

Amputee athletes from all over the world can now participate in the global sport, and can achieve the highest level of skill and performance.

Photo © Estate of US National Team Member Steve Wilber, Seattle, Washington, USA

2001  World Cup, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
           Gold - Brazil
           Silver - Russia
           Bronze - England

2002  World Championships, Sochi, Russia
           Gold - Russia
           Silver - Brazil
           Bronze - Uzbekistan

           In the bi-annual Congress, member nations vote to disband the IAFF.

2003  World Championships, Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
           Only four teams participate.
           Gold - Russia
           Silver - Ukraine
           Bronze - Brazil
           Fourth - Uzbekistan

2005  World Cup, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
           Gold - Brazil
           Silver - Russia
           Bronze - England
           4th - Ukraine
           5th - Sierra Leone
           6th - Turkey

           Member nations in Congress form the World Amputee Football Federation. Steve Johnson, England, President.

2006  Volgograd Open Championships, Volgograd, Russia Sept. 24 - 30, 2006
           Gold - Russia
           Silver - Great Britain
           Bronze - Uzbekistan

2007, February  First All-Africa Amputee Soccer Tournament held. Freetown, Sierra Leone.
           Gold - Ghana
           Silver - Liberia
           Bronze - Sierra Leone

2007  World Cup - Antalya, Turkey, November 11 - 21, 2007.
           Gold - Uzbekistan
           Silver - Russia
           Bronze - Turkey

2008  European Amputee Football Championship December 1-6, 2008
           Gold - Russian
           Silver - Turkey
           Bronze - England

2008  World Cup 2009 - Nova Friburgo, Brazil
Host City reneged on commitment to host. World Cup canceled.

2010  World Cup - Crespo, Argentina October 16 - 23, 2010.
           Gold - Uzbekistan
           Silver - Argentina
           Bronze - Turkey

2012  World Cup - Kaliningrad, Russia October 6 - 15, 2012.
           Gold - Uzbekistan
           Silver - Russia
           Bronze - Turkey

2014  World Cup - Culiacan, Mexico Nov. 30 - Dec 8, 2014.
           Gold - Russia
           Silver - Angola
           Bronze - Turkey

Amputee Soccer - A Game for All Seasons


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