This morning at Pickett Reserve, months of hard work by the Ferntree Gully Eagles Junior Football Club paid off as the Club successfully launched their FIDA Football Team, made up of a group of keen footballers living with a disability of varying degrees. The match, against the Ringwood Spiders, was played in gorgeous sunshine and saw a dream come true for many footballers who have previously never had the opportunity to play the game they love.
The Ringwood Spiders are one of the most successful clubs in the Football Integration Development Association (FIDA) and they were kind enough to send a team down to Ferntree Gully for this historic match, which was played in fantastic spirits. There were many highlights throughout the match, including the first goal ever scored for the FTG Eagles and six goals to the Captain of the Ringwood Spiders. However none were more memorable than two goals kicked in the third term by a player simply known as Mark.
Mark, an extremely shy young man who chose not to participate in the warm up, was positioned in the Forward Pocket by coach Tim Beare and during the first two quarters, stood alone off to the side of the field, seemingly nervous and low on confidence. Then, half way through the third term, a long kick into the forward line bounced favourably for Mark, who collected the ball and dribbled it through for a goal. Numerous team mates ran to congratulate him, however he seemed overwhelmed by the attention and once again preferred to keep to himself. As the players cleared and the play resumed, he did however manage a small smile.
Two minutes later, another long bomb bounced over the pack and landed at Mark's feet whilst he was standing alone in the goal square. He quickly kicked the ball off the ground and scored his second goal, with just his second kick. This time however there was no shyness, no timidness and no fear, as Mark raised his arms above his head, roared with excitement and embraced his new teammates in what was a truly magical moment.
Mark didn't get another kick after that moment, however nobody could wipe the smile from his face as his day was already memorable.
The final score saw the Spiders record a convincing victory, 17.12.114 to 5.9.39, however the boys from the 'Gully were far from disgraced in their first match. More importantly, when the final siren sounded, 15 young players had enjoyed each others company, made new friends and formed a special bond which will continue to develop in years to come.
If passion and excitement won games of football, the FTG Eagles FIDA Team would be hard to beat. Furthermore, with further practice and an improved level of skill, their new opponents in the 2012 season will have a tough challenge ahead of them.
The FIDA has been running for in excess of 20 years and currently consists of 13 teams throughout the state of Victoria, with the FTG Eagles being the 14th team when they play in 2012. The league, which receives minimal levels of funding from AFL Victoria and other levels of Government, provides opportunities to in excess of 300 footballers each season and helps people living with a disability achieve what is often a life-long dream of playing competitive football.
The football however is just one component, and the social benefits which result from this interaction with peers far outweighs anything else that is achieved in these matches. People with a disability often experience feelings of loneliness and isolation, and the benefits to the mental health of these players simply can not be underestimated. Opportunities to experience mateship, achievement, responsibility and independence are often hard to come by, however playing in the FIDA league gives all these young men and women an opportunity to grow and develop.
If you, or someone you know may be interested in playing football for the FTG Eagles, please follow this link; http://ferntreegullyeagles.com.au/
Or alternatively, more information about the FIDA can be found by following this link; http://www.fida.org.au/