The International Federation of Cerebral Palsy Football (IFCPF) was born with an agenda for CP inclusion, but it took some time for them to fully realise their potential.
The IFCPF doesn’t exist simply to provide opportunities for people with CP, but to give them real ownership of the sport, making sure they’re a hugely important part of the CP Football machine.
Once it was highlighted that members of the CP football family have skills and experience beyond being an athlete, IFCPF set the ball in motion to expand their members’ roles in in the sport they love.
Sam Turner is the IFCPF CEO/Secretary General and receives this year’s World CP Day Award for Contribution, including Employment on behalf of his organisation.
The project has seven key objectives:
- Inspire individuals to join the CP football family
- Embrace diversity through equality of opportunity
- Consult and engage with key stakeholders
- Respect for all members of the CP football family
- Attract the best individuals through great support programs
- Support the development of people in all roles of delivering the sport of CP football
- Ensure representation of people with an impairment throughout the entire organisation.
Sam says that initially, IFCPF wanted to do more than just create a ‘tick box’ committee where people with CP were involved in IFCPF beyond playing football.
“We were working on the concept of developing an athlete’s council and on giving people the opportunity to reach their potential and the chance to live their lives the way they chose,” he says.
Together with James Murrihy – IFCPF Athlete’s Representative on the IFCPF Board – Sam set off to bring IFCPF on a journey of becoming truly inclusive, centred on people with CP, and creating real opportunities for those people with CP embedded throughout the organisation.
In 2018, James attended the IFCPF General Assembly in Amsterdam along with representatives of approximately 40 other countries. It was here that he presented the vision for people with CP to be represented and contributing to all roles required in the delivering of CP football.
Towards the end of 2018, the IFCPF Board supported a restructure and refresh of all committees and groups across IFCPF to make sure that people with CP of all regions and genders were properly represented.
In saying that, it remains a fact that every member of every IFCPF committee or group is recruited specifically for their skills and experience and not because of who they represent.
Sam says that prior to the restructure, work had already begun to engage appropriately skilled people with CP to the roles of athlete representation, refereeing and classification.
“The IFCPF membership continued to support us to further identify and attract people with CP who had the right skills and experience to contribute to the organisation,” he says.
“We are very lucky that we have a worldwide volunteer network we can rely on to provide a very high standard of opportunities within our limited resources.”
So how has this all turned out in practice?
Quite proudly, Sam declares that IFCPF now has appropriately skilled and experienced people with CP on all committees and groups throughout the organisation.
“They’re making incredibly valuable contributions to the development and delivery of CP football,” he says.
IFCPF International Referee and Officiating Committee Member (Americas Representative), Igor Monteiro says:
“People with a disability can achieve anything they want to. Having CP myself helps me to make certain calls (like fouls). I think it’s very important for CP football to have people with CP as referees, coaches and sports managers.”
James Roberts, a medical doctor in the UK, and former international CP Football player, is currently studying to be an International Classifier for CP Football. James says:
“I feel having Cerebral Palsy and having a CP football background helps me empathise with the athletes undergoing the classification process.”
James also spoke of how great an opportunity it has been to combine his profession and his love of CP Football.
Building on the good work they’ve carried out so far, IFCPF have begun a new Ambassador program designed to inspire more people with CP to fall in love with CP football.
The program has begun with the identification of two Youth Ambassadors (Bryan Kilpatrick Elliott from England and Getulio Felipe from Brazil).
It recently expanded to include its first Female Ambassador, Jara Brokking from the Netherlands. Jara attended the first female IFCPF CP Football Camp in Zeist, the Netherlands, where she spent three days playing football with girls from all around Europe. Her dream is to be in the Paralympics in the future.
Sam says that Bryan, Getulio and Jara will tell their personal CP football stories and inspire the next generation.
“IFCPF believes that we should use role models who resonate with our audience in order to create a real connection,” he says.
“Through these real life examples we can celebrate and share the achievements of people with CP.
“By promoting successful case studies, we can reward the efforts of those who make huge contributions to our sport, and we can support others to follow in their footsteps,” Sam says.
Sam says that as IFCPF moves forward, they will expand the Ambassador Program to include:
- Frame Football
- Adult CP Football, and
- All other roles in the sport they love.
If you’d like to know more about opportunities with IFCPF, head to their website and get in touch – https://www.ifcpf.com/
IFCPF won the Major Award for Contribution, Including Employment, in the 2019 World Cerebral Palsy Day Awards.