Victoria claims silver medal at National Paralympic Football Championships
A hard-fought 1-0 loss to NSW capped off a great tournament
Last week the annual National Paralympic 7-A-Side Football Championships were held at Valentine Sports Park in Sydney.
Victoria took part in the tournament and created history by reaching its first ever Gold Medal match, putting up a great fight falling narrowly 1-0 to New South Wales to claim a silver medal.
The 2016 championships were one of disappointment for Victoria, with the team failing to win a game and finishing in last place. That disappointment spurred them on and prompted for an evaluation of the program. Coaches Andrew Rofo and Seb Zancan worked hard alongside former FFV All Abilities Coordinator Megan Smith to better promote the State team program, generating greater awareness of the possibilities available to footballers with cerebral palsy. As a result, the program grew and over twenty players were involved in the training program throughout the season – raising the standards but also the depth within the squad.
A squad of twelve were selected to represent their state at Nationals, a packed schedule awaiting them upon arrival in Sydney. Each team would play the other competing states twice each, resulting in six matches played over three days plus a final on Sunday.
The tournament started off well for Victoria, grabbing a late equaliser via captain and Pararoo Ben Roche to draw 1-1 with reigning champions New South Wales. The team went on to have a successful group stage, winning four of its last five matches, and losing its other to NSW after playing a majority of the game with a man down after receiving a red card.
Some standout performances across the tournament included Joe Markey who was solid in defence, Angus MacGregor who provided the engine in the midfield, captain Ben Roche who won the Golden Boot with an outstanding 15 goals, and young 13 year old Christian Bitsikas who in his first tournament showed the class and composure of a seasoned veteran.
A 4-3 win against Western Australia on the final day clinched a place in its first ever Gold Medal match, which set up a thrilling encounter with rivals New South Wales.
The match was heavily contested with both teams displaying great fight and playing some terrific football. With the scores locked at 0-0 at the break, the result could have gone either way. With 15 minutes remaining Pararoos star Ben Atkins of NSW broke the deadlock with a stunning long range effort to leave Victorian goalkeeper Christian Tsangas with little chance. Victoria pushed hard for an equaliser, however it was not to be as the final whistle blew and NSW ran out 1-0 victors leaving Victoria to settle for second place.
The team has come a long way over the past 12 months, and we can expect the program to grow bigger and stronger in the years to come with a number of talented young players coming through the system.
CLICK HERE to check out some of Victoria’s highlights from the tournament!
Game 1. Victoria 1-1 New South Wales
Game 2. Victoria 5-2 Capital Football
Game 3. Victoria 5-2 Western Australia
Game 4. Victoria 3-7 New South Wales
Game 5. Victoria 5-1 Capital Football
Game 6. Victoria 4-3 Western Australia
Final. Victoria 0-1 New South Wales
1 - Christian Tsangas
2 - Ben Roche (Captain)
3 - Joe Markey
4 - Joseph Accetta
7 - Cosimo Cirillo
8 - Matthew Holland (Vice Captain)
9 - Oran Jones
10 - Joshua Beekes
12 - Hayden Bognar
16 - Christian Bitsikas
21 - Con Christodoulou
22 - Angus MacGregor
Head Coach: Andrew Rofo
Assistant Coach: Seb Zancan
Team Manager: Tessa Sernio
Physio: Rick Whitehead