Canberra United All Abilities Academy launched

Canberra United is proud to announce the launch of the first dedicated football academy for people with a disability in the ACT.

The Canberra United All Abilities Academy, which is believed to be the first all-ability football academy aligned with either a Hyundai A-League or Westfield W-League club, is open to all footballers with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury or symptoms acquired from a stroke.

Nineteen footballers have joined the Academy to train twice a week with accredited coaches at Hawker Football Centre. The Academy will also provide participants with real opportunities to represent Capital Football at the CP Football Nationals and the FFA National Futsal Championships.

Canberra United All Abilities Academy coach Kelly Stirton said it was important to provide a pathway for All Ability athletes who may have never had an opportunity before.

“AWD or All Ability athletes don’t get the same options as other athletes so it was Capital Football’s goal to provide them with an option and to make their sport equal with everybody else’s,” Stirton said.

“We want to make sure that each and every one of these footballers are supported 110 percent, regardless of their ability on and off the pitch.

“We want to give them an option so they can chase their dreams, whether that be playing football for the very first time or representing the Pararoos at the IFCPF World Cup.”

Capital Football CEO Phil Brown said the All Abilities Academy proved that football is a sport for all.

“Capital Football has a united goal to create opportunities that enable everyone to participate in our great game,” Mr Brown said.

“The Academy is open to all; from experienced players like Jason Driscoll, who was part of the inaugural Pararoos squad in 1999, to some of our youngest footballers like 10-year-old Jayden Wallace-Bourne.

“We also have Tilda Mason who moved over from Perth to pursue her footballing career with the Academy."

Mr Brown said the launch of the Academy builds on Capital Football's work to make football more inclusive.

"Last year, Kelly was the first female head coach of a team at the National CP Football Championships, leading a Capital Football team which had three female footballers, the first three to ever play in the tournament," Mr Brown said.

“While COVID-19 delayed our launch, it has been great to see our footballers join the Academy and we hope to see the numbers grow over the coming years.”

15-year-old Luc Launder, who was one of the first footballers to join the Academy, said the Academy is a safe space for them to express themselves through sport.

“The Canberra United All Ability Academy has opened up many sporting pathways for people who may not have gotten the opportunity before,” Launder said. “The Academy is also a good way for the more experienced players to help educate and support the younger and less experienced players like me.”

2020 Canberra United All Abilities Academy

Greg Hibberd, Jason Driscoll, Adam Cunningham, Adam Harty, Jayden Wallace-Bourne, Ashby Gardiner-Garden, Olivia Runting, Ethan Sonter, Matilda Mason, Nathan Howard, Christian Valeri, Adrian Araya, Luke Summerfield, Luc Launder, Isaac Wilcox, Shaun Gower, Andrew Hoatson and Patrick Heath Jeffery