'We'd Love The FFA To Know Who We Are': Australian Deaf Football Team Qualifies For World Championship
The Australian Deaf Football Team will be playing an international tournament for the first time in five years.
The team secured a spot at the Deaf World Football Championship this week after competition organisers expanded from 16 teams to 24.
The gap of eight teams allowed Australia to take one of the places, a huge moment for a squad that has not played at an international tournament in half a decade.
Head Coach and Technical Director James Lambert will be leading the team when they head to South Korea to compete in the tournament between September 5 to 20 this year.
"We haven't played in an international tournament since in Taiwan in 2015," he told 10 daily.
"We need to go to more tournaments to get experience, even if we get knocked out of the World Championship we'd still get to play games, like 10th place verse 11."
With players spread out over the country, camps are run up to four times a year for those hard of hearing or deaf invited to give it a go. The latest camp was held at the Australian Institute of Sport in February.
"We basically have people around the country looking for players to identify and advertise (the team), or word of mouth, and we invite them to the camps," Lambert said.
"We've created an inclusive environment and we can cater for anyone who wants to come to national camps."
The team will be sending over 30 people -- 22 players and eight staff who all work for the team for no pay.
Players and four of the staff will be paying their own way, but Lambert said the team will be relying on private sponsors to fund the remaining four staff members and some of the costs for the rest of the team.
"In the past players had to pay for staff, but they've changed that," he said.
"Our secretary and chairman have gone out to private investors to try to fund the staff and we might save $500 for each player."
Some of the staff, such as the physiotherapist and interpreter, are NDIS approved, with Lambert hoping this will also provide some funding for the team.
Football Federation Australia (FFA) made much fanfare about the Pararoos when the side played their first match on home soil in December last year, but Lambert said the same support is not given to other national teams.
"It would mean a lot to the team to be recognised... the players would love for the FFA to know who we are," Lambert said.
"We want to make sure that the blind, deaf and para teams all receive equal attention at the moment."
The team does not receive any funding from FFA and the most notable support given by the organisation were "hand-me-down" kits that often did not fit the players.
"My players might not fit into the shorts, and we had the situation were they were arguing over sizes," Lambert said.
"We've now gone away and found a sponsor to make our own clothes so that they fit."
FFA told 10 daily it has dialogue with the Deaf Australian Football Team and "welcomes" continued discussion.
"At present the Deaf Australian Football Team does not come under the direct management of Football Federation Australia (FFA)," it said.
"However, as with numerous all abilities national team initiatives, FFA endeavours to support independently-run national team programs with elements such as kit (training, match, casual) where possible, and advice regarding possible fundraising initiatives."
The team did receive a grant from the government to head to the 2019 Asia Pacific Deaf Games in Hong Kong, but the competition was cancelled due to the protests in the country at the time.
This tournament was supposed to act as a qualifying tournament for the Deaflympics taking place in Brazil at the end of 2021. This means Australia's participation in the World Championship could lead to further international experience.
"It's unlikely they will be able to organise another international tournament before then," Lambert said.
"We have a feeling they will look at the best four performing Asian teams at the World Championships and make a decision (about the Deaflympics)."