7 Interesting Things I Learnt From Watching Wheelchair Soccer

Posted by: theseabilities | in Events | 3 years, 2 months ago | Comments

Organised by the Singapore Disability Sports Council, Powered Wheelchair Soccer, or “Power Soccer”, is one of the many sports in the 10th Annual National Disability League. A 5-a-side game played indoors, the same rules of soccer apply to Power Soccer as well. As the ASEAN Para(lympic) Games nears, (these)abilities was given the opportunity to watch the tournament unfold! For the uninitiated, here is a Power Soccer game filmed on GoPro cameras.

As an avid football fan and a disability advocate, here are the 7 interesting things I learnt from watching Power Soccer in Singapore:

 

  1. All players are “both-legged”

One of the immediate observations I had whilst watching the matches was how versatile the players were. A player could rotate his/her wheelchair in one direction to do a short pass, or do a swift 360 in the other direction for a long range shot.

Wheelchair Soccer Technique

It is very much like how soccer players use the inner and outer foots, or both feet interchangeably for added unpredictability to their game.

This extended to the way Power Soccer players defend as well. Defending with the right side of their wheelchair, they swivel 180 (in a split second) to use their left side of the wheelchair if the ball is passed across the court.

This makes it very hard to attack, but also very fun to watch as the attackers are equally as skilful!

 

  1. People of all age, gender and background play together.

As the game is played with a motorised wheelchair, players of all ages and gender can play together as long as they can control the joystick on the wheelchair. This allows wheelchair users on feeder tubes and other life-assisting equipment to play as well!

The 10th Annual Power Soccer games had players that ranged from 13 years to 35 years of age and of all genders.

In fact, the top scorer of the tournament was Yan Ching, a lady who scored 5 goals.

We felt that this was extremely useful for social interaction in such a small community that needed no further division. This was evident at the match where everyone seemed like a member of a close-knit family.

 

  1. Wheelchairs are a part of a player’s body.

Any soccer fan can definitely remember the way Cristiano Ronaldo takes his free kicks as he places the ball meticulously on the ground, counts his steps, makes a perfectly planned run up before striking the ball. This similarity can be seen in Power Soccer players as well as they position themselves strategically beside the ball and spin their chairs 360 on the spot to strike the ball. The players’ sense of their wheelchair’s bearings play a crucial role in judging their interaction with the ball and is an exemplification of the fact that wheelchairs are a part of player’s body.

 

  1. The joystick is extremely sensitive and requires extreme precision.

Having tried a motorised wheelchair before, I learnt that a minute push of the joystick moves the wheelchair quite a fair bit. The same could be said of the (now) trendy electric scooters and their throttles. Imagine a scooter four times the size, multiply that by 10 and start kicking a ball in a play area the size of a regular basketball court. Now, that requires precision!

 

  1. It is a non-contact sport, so control is key.

Unlike wheelchair basketball matches where we see brutal clashes that send players flying, Power soccer is a non-contact sport. The reason is simple: the wheelchairs are powered by a battery, not hand strength. Any clashing of powered wheelchairs would have a much greater impact and cost more than regular wheelchairs should there be damage. I shall emphasize again how tight the play area is, and coupled with the wheelchair’s ability to accelerate almost instantaneously, makes this a really hard sport to master.

 

  1. It is every bit like Soccer.

Whilst watching the matches, I was constantly drawing parallels to the regular game of soccer and could find no discernible difference. Free kicks, goalkeeper, wingers charging down the byline.. The referee even had his yellow and red card in his pocket should the need arise!

The players have a very good sense of their position, teammates and ball trajectory. This probably is why they make good FIFA players on the xbox as well!

 

  1. Athletic Professionalism is in the mind, not the body, of a player.

Being a soccer player and avid fan of the game, I get quite irritated with all the play-acting and diving that happens in the modern game. Hence, it was really refreshing to watch a game whereby Power Soccer players openly inform the referee if they had committed a foul or notice that an opponent’s hand had fallen off their joystick control (which essentially renders that player immobile in the game).

And just like David Beckham who practised 1000 free kicks every training session, we had our own local Beckham practising his moves intently before the game.

Overall, it was an interesting and eye-opening experience to witness our local sports scene thriving even in the disability community. Keep it up Power Soccer players, and hope to see the rest of you at the 11th Annual Power Soccer tournament with more teams involved!! In the mean time, enjoy the highlights and goals from our players:

 

**Although the 10th Annual Power Soccer tournament organised by the National Disability League only included players from the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Singapore, the sport extends to all users of Powered/Motorised wheelchairs. Given more volunteers and support, they would have the manpower and logistics to open the league up to more teams and players. If you would like to know more about Power Soccer or volunteer for training sessions/future matches for sports in the disability sector, contact us at hello@theseabilities.com and we will direct you to the appropriate parties.

 

About the author:

Ken is an avid football (and arsenal) fan who also happens to be the Director of (these)abilities, a social enterprise which brings technology and design-thinking to the Disability community for effective problem solving by Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), for PwDs.

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