By Tony Jackson
Photo by John Owens
Power soccer, or powerchair football, is the most popular sport for power wheelchair users around the world. Created in France during the early 1980s, athletes in over 25 countries currently play this version of The Beautiful Game. Played indoors on a regulation-sized basketball court with four players a side, three offense/defense players and a goalkeeper. Athletes use metal or plastic foot guards attached to the front of the chair to shoot and pass the ball, which is often done by spinning the chair as fast as the athlete and chair can handle.
In the early days of the sport, athletes used their personal chairs to play. Over time, many people acquired and modified secondary chairs specifically to play soccer, giving an advantage to those with knowledge and resources to create a better chair. With the introduction of the first power wheelchair designed specifically for power soccer in 2012, the Strike Force from Power Soccer Shop leveled the playing field and revolutionized the game. A wide base and low center of gravity, combined with state-of-the-art electronics, give the Strike Force unmatched agility and maneuverability, providing the athlete complete freedom on the court. Now everyone has an opportunity to use the same high-end equipment and achieve their athletic goals. Gameplay has been propelled to a truly elite level.
Power soccer is highly competitive with a season that runs from September to June. Nearly 60 teams around the country travel and compete in local and regional tournaments. In Arizona, Ability360 hosts the annual Duel in the Desert every October. Competitions are also hosted by Arizona Disabled Sports throughout the season. The US Power Soccer Association is divided into four competitive conferences and at the end of the season, teams gather to compete in conference championship tournaments. Winners are promoted to the next conference up and losers are relegated to the next conference down, so there is much more than just pride and trophies on the line!
On an international level, power soccer is currently not a Paralympic sport, but there is a growing movement to have it added to the program. However, there have been two power soccer World Cup competitions, the first in Tokyo in 2007 and the second in Paris in 2011. The United States is the only world champion the sport has ever known. In July 2017, the third FIPFA World Cup tournament will take place in Kissimmee, Florida, and the US will attempt to be the first team to ever win three consecutive World Cup titles.
For those who have substantial physical disabilities, power soccer is a chance to be an athlete, which is something many never considered a possibility.
Those who play this game practice and train just like any other athlete. Some do it for the social outlet, others for the glory that comes with being crowned a champion. If you have ever dreamt of playing sports, but thought your disability would not allow you, give power soccer a try. It may lead to achievements you never thought possible.
Ability360 has two teams for competitive and recreational play. If you’re interested in trying power soccer, contact Nick Bright at NickB@ability360.org. For more information about power soccer, or to find other programs, visit the US Power Soccer Association online at www.powersoccerusa.org.
Tony Jackson is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He started playing power soccer in 2009 and has no plans to stop anytime soon. In addition to being an athlete, he puts his journalism skills to use as a broadcaster of power soccer tournaments around the world. He is currently a player and coach in New Hampshire.