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How to kick goals with cerebral palsy

There are people in this world who have no ability to see the obstacles they face. They move into their dreams with a ferocity and passion that inspires us all as we watch them make those dreams a reality.

Igor Monteiro is one such person.

He loves football. He also has a vision for inclusion in football (the rounded ball variety otherwise known as soccer) and has made enormous strides in bringing that vision to life. His cerebral palsy (CP) is just tagging along for the ride.

Igor is a 29-year old Brazilian man with hemiparesis in his left arm and leg.

But when he was just 7-years old, Igor started playing football. The sport quickly became the centrepiece for the rest of his life.

He had grown up with a father and grandfather who loved football and who endeared the sport to him in turn.

“My father used to play football for leisure and he also played with me and my younger brother,” says Igor in a way that implies the sport is running through his veins.

Since those early days, Igor has gone on to be:

  • a National Referee from Brazil at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games for CP Football
  • an International Referee for the International Federation of Cerebral Palsy Football (IFCPF)
  • the Americas representative on the IFCPF Officiating Committee
  • an official at a number of tournaments
  • a big supporter of developing female CP Football
  • a physical education teacher
  • a graduate with a Masters of Science
  • a Doctorate student focusing on female football referees in Brazil and gender issues in sport more broadly.

As we write this story, Igor is preparing to referee at the IFCPF World Cup in Seville, Spain.

Did he ever think he couldn’t play football? How did he overcome that?

“I think that I thought I couldn’t play football,” says Igor.

“Maybe I thought that my shots with my left foot were a little bit different.”

“But my father and mother always encouraged me to play football.” he says.

“Yes, I have had some challenges on my way and I would like to improve my skills as a football referee and as a physical education teacher too.”

“I plan to intensify my physical training, continue to study the FIFA/International Football Association laws and physical education issues,” he says.

On being a physical education teacher

You know you have a passional for football when it’s all you watch on TV, talk about, read about and play. 

This was the place Igor found himself in when he decided his career path would be as a physical education teacher; something he believed would enable him to get paid to stay immersed in football.

“But when I entered into the faculty, I discovered that physical education is much more than football and sports,” says Igor.

“I think it’s important we have people with disability playing this role (physical education teacher).”

“It’s important that people with disability practice physical activity, but having a person with a disability teaching these activities is important too.”

“They know some of the barriers that people face in practicing sports and physical activities,” he says.

Igor has taught students with a disability as well as students who are able-bodied. He has taught primary school as well as high school students.

This year, he is continuing his studies.

On studying gender issues in sport

“My teacher for both my Masters of Science and now my Doctorate, Ludmila Mourão, is an important researcher in to gender and sport in Brazil,” says Igor.

“She always encouraged me to think about these issues and so I looked into Brazilian female referee careers in professional football.”

“We found that in the 1980s and the 1990s there were some female referees pioneering in the field and those women encouraged new women to choose a career in refereeing in the 2000s.”

“I used to play football with girls in high school so I always supported women’s football,” he says.

“The opportunity to referee the first female CP football match was wonderful to me. To see all these girls smiling, playing the sport they love, was unforgettable,”
says Igor

Igor is keen to congratulate every nation that is developing female CP Football.

“I know from the IFCPF reports that Australia does a good job with female CP Football players,” he says.

On why female CP Football has taken so long to catch up to men’s

He thinks it’s because of social and cultural issues.

“But I think the IFCPF is doing a good job promoting inclusion in sport,” says Igor.

He points to the IFCPF strategic plan which looks to promote equity, equality and diversity in all roles at the Federation.

“It’s very important to female CP Football development, and I would like to congratulate IFCPF because they’re doing it in the right way,” he says. 

What advice does he have for young people with CP who’d like to get involved with sport but feel a bit overwhelmed?

Igor wants young people to believe in themselves; to believe in their dreams.

“We (people with CP) can do everything we want. Never let anybody say you can’t do something,” he says.

“Sport is very important in the CP community because it improves health but I think that the most important this is the friendships in CP sport; they are for all your life.”
– Igor


IFCPF: International Federation of Cerebral Palsy Football