Houston Hosts U.S. National Amputee Soccer Team Training Camp at Ollin Athletics & Sports Medicine
“It was great,” admitted captain Nicolai “Nico” Calabria. “We love coming to Houston. We will be back.”
But this US national team is not your usual football team.
“Normal is boring,” said Robert Ferguson.
This weekend, the American Amputee Soccer Association held its first national team training camp in the city as the team prepares to qualify for this year’s Amputee Soccer World Cup. year in Turkey. So what is amputee football?
“The fastest game on one leg,” Calabria explained. “It’s a beautiful game. It’s always what people think of when they think of football.”
Calabria, who was born without one of his legs, proved in front of our ABC13 cameras that his foot is better than most.
The sport is practiced by amputee athletes. There are six players and one goalkeeper per team. Both men and women on the pitch, with the exception of the keeper, use forearm crutches.
Ferguson is a Houstonian. In 2016, the 16-year veteran of our United States Armed Forces joined the team to represent his country in another way.
“I told the team they had no idea what it means to me to represent my country,” Ferguson revealed.
Ferguson, who played semi-professional soccer for several years in Europe, lost his leg while training at Fort Hood. He told us that amputee football gave him more than just an opportunity to get back on the pitch.
“This sport saved my life,” admitted Ferguson. “I went to a very dark place after being discharged from the army. I used my painkillers just to get through the day. I also had a lot of trouble with alcohol, like so many veterans in have to deal with these days. I found football amputated by accident, and it gave me back a part of my life.”
Ferguson, who founded the Lone Star Adaptive Soccer Association locally, now joins his national teammates in trying to grow the game in the United States. Amputee football is not part of the Paralympic Games and falls under the United States Soccer Federation.
“We hope to become a Paralympic sport so players can earn allowance and take more time off,” Calabria said. “Turkey, for example, have professional amputee football and they are the best team in the world for that reason. We hope to develop that in the United States as well.”
This soccer field gives amputee athletes a place in team sports, but there’s another place they want to go, and it’s not just this year’s World Cup.
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