Simon Baker (left) in action.

Column I lost my leg but now I aim to make Irish amputee football history

Simon Baker was a plasterer until a workplace accident ultimately saw his leg amputated. Here he explains how he found new hope in amputee football – and is aiming to make Ireland a real contender in the sport.

MY NAME IS Simon Baker and I lost my leg in 2004 in a building site accident.

I had been working as a plasterer for 20 years. The incident that changed my life in 2004 appeared trivial enough; it was the simplest of accidents that caused me to fall 12 feet, shattering the bones in my leg. After months of heavy medication, failed operations and countless hospital admissions I made the life-changing decision to have the leg amputated below the knee.

I made this difficult decision so that I could regain control of my life and begin recovery. Once the surgery was over I found myself in an unfamiliar place with financial and employment worries.

I realised that I needed a challenge to turn my life around

In 2008 after a battle with depression I realised that I needed a challenge to turn my life around and this took the form of entering the Dublin Marathon. I completed the marathon earning myself a place in the Guinness Book of Records (Fastest Marathon on Crutches on One Leg). After this I decided I wanted to find a competitive sport to play as an amputee. After some research I came across amputee football and found out that this was in fact a fast growing sport around the globe with a World Cup taking place every 2 years and hopes of it being included in the Paralympics.

I made some enquires to the FAI (Football Association of Ireland) and was told that there was no amputee football programme in Ireland at present. I then contacted to see if something could be done to get such a project up and running. After nearly a year of meetings and talks in April 2011 the first amputee football development day was set up and run from Mountview Community and Youth Centre, Clonsilla, Dublin 15 and from this the Irish Amputee Football Association (IAFA) was formed as part of the FAI Football For All programme.

With myself and the help of Christy McElligot (player with the IAFA) and Oisin Jordan (Football For All national co-ordinator), and proud sponsor of the team the IAFA has gone from strength to strength.

The IAFA will provide any person with an amputation, congenital deficiency or other limb-affecting disorder the opportunity to access Amputee football at grassroots, club and national level. The IAFA has seen a huge growth and intends to extend their activities nationwide with the intention to form regional teams to compete in inter regional competitions.

The rules of the game are very similar to standard football, except that outfield players play on crutches on one leg and the goalkeeper has one arm. The game consists of two halves of 20 minutes each and is played on a pitch that is 51 metres by 31 metres, with six outfield players and one goalkeeper. This is a highly skilled game with players demonstrating incredible fitness and ability on a par with their 11-aside counterparts.

The IAFA are due to make Irish sporting history as they prepare to send a team across the channel to England were they will compete in their first competitive tournament – they will play Poland, Germany and England in a 4-nations tournament. I am in talks with to sponsor next year’s tournament with the idea of hosting it here in Ireland. This would help promote amputee football as a serious sport in Ireland with inter-regional teams set up nationwide. We hope to put Ireland on the map with the aim to become a serious contender in the world of amputee football.

Training sessions are open to both male and female and all ages, if you have a passion for football and think you would like to try out, regardless of your level of fitness. To find out more or contact us through our website (click here) or on Facebook: Irish Amputee Football Association.

Simon Baker is a player and the Development Officer with the IAFA.

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