After a stunning fundraising drive that netted $80,000 for the Pararoos program, the players are now able to look forward to the National Para Football Championships in Queensland.
The Para Nationals is an annual event that pits the best footballers in the country with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury or symptoms acquired from a stroke against one another.
In June the Pararoos launched the ‘Undefeated Giving Day.’ The initiative raised $40,000 from various donors, which was then matched by an anonymous party to more than double their goal.
“It means the world to us,” delighted national team coach Kai Lammert told The Inner Sanctum.
“For us to get together and have the opportunity to do that is only possible through the kindness of people donating to the Pararoos and the vision of our fundraising manager, Katrina Hicks, who’s doing an awesome job putting these events on.”
For Lammert, the Para Nationals is a valuable opportunity to scout up and coming players for his squad. In the absence of Paralympic football, the tournament has taken on extra significance.
“It’s very, very important, because first of all it’s a great honour to represent your state,” Lammert said.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the boys to show themselves to the national team coaching staff and possibly be selected into one of the (Pararoos) camps.
“This year we’ve got the biggest nationals coming up so its super exciting. It’s the first time up at the Gold Coast, all the players are really looking forward to it.
“As a national team coach, the most important thing is the scouting side. We’ll leave the tournament and have every game on video.”
“I’ve loved every single minute of it”
Lammert has been the head coach since 2015 but was an assistant since 2007 under Paul Brown.
“I still remember very clearly my first camp and I loved every single minute of it,” he added. “The enthusiasm of the boys, the honesty, the work rate,
“I’m still as enthusiastic about the team as when I walked in.”
On field success is the main motivator for the players and the coach – the side made the Final of the 2018 Asian Cup. However, Lammert points out that there is a much bigger aim for the Pararoos.
“We always want to win tournaments, that’s the overarching thing. [But] our ambitions are a little bit more than that. We want to inspire a young generation of players with CP or acquired brain injury… to change lives,” he explained.
“It’s not just we go in and win trophies, [even though] we’re footballers and that’s what we want.”
The fundraising success is an encouraging step for the Pararoos and there are hopes they can bridge the divide with well-funded opposition in the future.
“Just winning trophies is not the only vision we have, but on the other side we want to be number one in the world and we want to be professional athletes,” Lammert said.
“We’ve got teams like Ukraine and Russia, they’re doing this for a living, I can’t see why we can’t do that one day.
“Is it going to happens today? Probably not. But who knows what’s going to happen in the near future.
“If the fundraising activities are as successful as they have been, if sponsors come on board, I can see us becoming a professional football team.”
The biggest domestic stage
The Para Nationals won’t just be an opportunity for potential players to be unearthed. Established Pararoos will be looking to show off their talents on the biggest domestic stage, too.
“There’s a lot of exciting players,” enthused the coach.
“Daniel Campbell is still a very young player – he’s only doing his HSC this year – but he’s already an integral part of our team.
“There’s a lot of players to look out for, every state has got their player they look out for.
“Victoria has Ben Roche who has been there for a long time, Queensland has our captain David Barber, and he’s had his birthday yesterday so he will look to make an impact… New South Wales has Taj Lynch.
“If you have a chance go and watch the boys at the Para Nationals, because I can’t wait to see them out there.”
The Para Nationals date has yet to be confirmed but is scheduled for the Gold Coast later in 2021.
Aspiring CP footballers are encouraged to contact their state federations for information about development centres and state-based training camps.
Tax deductible donations can be made to the Pararoos via www.Pararoos.com.au.
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