Loftus Recreation Centre becomes the proud home of WA’s very own Powerchair Football Association.
Powerchair Football – a modified version of soccer to suit electric wheelchairs – has moved its Western Australian home to Perth’s Loftus Recreation Centre, marking the partnership announcement with a demonstration match against players of the Perth Glory soccer team.
“We have a place we can actually call home for powerchair football,” said a beaming Jason Lewis, the president of the Western Australian Powerchair Football Association (WAPFA) and a player himself.
Powerchair football is a fast and free-flowing 4-a-side game with similar tactics to soccer that’s for all ages, genders and those with disabilities such as muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and spinal cord injury. Players’ wheelchairs are fitted with foot guards that are used to push, hit and spin kick the ball. It’s a tactical sport that requires skill, teamwork and communication, combining the talent of the wheelchair user with the speed and power of the chair itself.
Powerchair football is played with a larger-than-normal ball on a basketball-sized court, and it was the sport’s unique court requirements that led Belgravia Leisure to offer WAPFA use of its futsal court at the Loftus Recreation Centre in Leederville.
Until now, WAPFA hadn’t been able to access suitable courts for its matches and training, instead using outside football pitches which make it difficult to retrieve balls kicked out of bounds. That’s largely because WAPFA is a community based, non-profit association run by players and committed volunteers, and doesn’t receive any government funding. The support it receives from Perth Glory is in the form of team shirts and access to fundraising.
Jess Godwin, Loftus Recreation Centre Programs and Inclusion Coordinator, said “Being in an electric wheelchair on an outside football field is simply not suitable for the powerchair footballers. Our futsal court is unique in that it’s surrounded by walls. If the ball goes out it does not roll into another court but back into play.”
Lewis wholeheartedly agreed. “We didn’t really have a proper court to play on. We need plenty of room for the wheelchairs to be able to move around. The Loftus court suits our game perfectly and has a proper surface. When the balls go astray it’s nice to have them within reach.”
Godwin pointed out that the court also has a ramp, “so it’s 100% percent accessible to all their players and is right next door to toilets as well, which include disabled toilets and a full change room.”
The Loftus Recreation Centre location, too, is perfect, said Lewis. Leederville is only minutes from the Perth CBD and its central location makes it easy to get to for powerchair football players from all over Perth.
Since the Loftus Recreation Centre is one of the largest health and fitness facilities in WA – including a café, a 24/7 health club gym, group fitness studios, and cycling studio – it also gives the carers of the powerchair footballers a change to move around and have a break while their charges are playing footy.
WAPFA has moved all its training and most of its matches to the Loftus Recreation Centre. These include games for its local competition (which features two teams at this stage) and for its Western Australian representative team, which competes with other interstate teams.
Lewis says powerchair football is “non-contact, but it’s very competitive, very fast paced and exciting.”
He played soccer from the age of six, until he suffered a spinal injury at the age of 28 that made him a quadriplegic. He began playing powerchair football in 2012 and says that the competition and toughness in the powerchair football contests was as intense as anything he ever experienced playing soccer previously.
For the launch of its new home at Loftus Recreation Centre, WAPFA held a powerchair exhibition game against able-bodied players of the Perth Glory soccer team.