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Copyright 2000 The Seattle Times Company
Local News : Sunday, November 19, 2000

Amputee soccer: Brazil beats Russia, 2-1
By Frank Vinluan
Seattle Times staff reporter

A world championship was decided yesterday at Seattle Center, but it had nothing to do with the Supersonics.

In an overtime match that pitted skillful individual play against tactical teamwork, the skill of Brazil beat Russia 2-1 to win the World Cup of amputee soccer.

For the past week, seven teams from around the world have played in the soccer tournament, hosted this year by Seattle. The idea for amputee soccer came from a pick-up basketball game on Mercer Island 20 years ago. Donald Bennett, now 70 and retired, was standing on the sidelines when the ball came toward him. Swinging from his crutches, he kicked the ball and the idea for the sport was born.

Like their counterparts on the national team, Brazilians are known for their skillful ball handling, said Don Bell, a youth-soccer coach. Although the players use crutches, they handle the ball well because most players grew up playing the game.

But the tactical play of the Russians almost won out with better passing and solid defense. They had more scoring opportunities in the first half, but their one goal was a header just out of the Brazilian goalie's reach.

Brazil tied the game late in the second half, leading to sudden-death overtime. But the Brazilians didn't take long, scoring moments into the extra period on a length-of-field kick that a Brazilian player headed into the goal.

In the bronze-medal match Friday night, the Ukraine beat Uzbekistan 3-2.

Many of those who came to the game were soccer fans or players in youth or adult soccer leagues. The level of play impressed Seattle resident David McGeoy, who has played soccer his whole life and plays in a Seattle recreational league.

"I'm surprised at the pace they can maintain, the speeds they get up to getting up and down the field," he said. "The play of the ball is not at all different from play outdoor on a field."

It probably will be years before Americans' soccer skills catch up to the rest of the world, Bell said. Amputee soccer has been a rehabilitation boon for those recovering from the loss of a limbwhile only slightly altering the way the sport is played.

"Of all the sports for disabled athletes, I think it has been the closest to the spirit of the sport," he said.

Frank Vinluan's phone message number is 206-464-2291. His e-mail address is

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