Together for Para Football in West Asia

Sunday 25/04/2021
The West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) and Para Football facilitated a series of development workshops to support the member associations in their pursuit of football for all and establishing Para Football programmes.

Freddy Farhat, Business Development Manager for Para Football commented: "This project is the start of a better tomorrow for Para Football in West Asia, and we hope that the positive impact and reaction received from the participating football associations will spark an equal opportunity for all players with disabilities in the region.”

Supported by expert guest speakers and partner organizations and showcasing some of the good practice from member associations from within the region, the development phase of our Para Football in West Asia project has been a resounding success. By connecting stakeholders of the Para Football community, together we are stronger and can provide the best possible opportunities for persons with disabilities in football. 

Opening the workshop series, the theme of ‘Governance & Capacity Building’ was introduced with the support Para Football Role Model FA, the Japan Inclusive Football Federation (JIFF) Kota Yamamoto of JIFF shared their philosophy: "Regardless of disability, we contribute to the creation of an inclusive society where everyone can enjoy the value of sports and respect the individuality of each person through football.” 

The workshop participants also heard from Para Football Player Ambassador, Kudakwashe Mapira from Zimbabwe. "Football is important for disabled people. It is a way to be part of the community. It has changed my life.” 

The second workshop focused on ‘Inclusive Communications & Awareness’, with expert guidance and advice from Disability Sports Channel and Para Football representatives. 

Next the programme delved into the topic of ‘Football Development & Education’, with guest presentations from the Jordan Football Association & Paralympic Committee, Cerebral Palsy Sports Federation of India and the Italian Football Association (FIGC). Focused on integrated and inclusive football opportunities, Lorenzo Mairano of the FIGC commented: "Allow disabled footballers dreaming to wear the jersey of a pro club, the feeling to be part of their favorite team.” 

To enhance the collective understanding and approach, the workshop on ‘Disability, Eligibility & Classification’ introduced guest speakers from the Centre for Access to Football in Europe and Universitas Miguel Hernández. The Oman Football Association & Paralympic Committee shared their journey in the introduction and development of blind football, and the English Football Association showcased their Para Football pathway and the provision of opportunities across impairment specific and mainstream football. 

As the fifth and final workshop of this phase, ‘Networks & Partnership Development’ was the theme to help bring all of the discussion and knowledge exchange together. Once again good practice from member associations gave insight to ideas and opportunities, with presentations from both the Palestine Football Association, and Saudi Arabian Football Federation & Paralympic Committee. Connecting both Para sport and football for a united Para Football programme, valuable insights were shared from both the Asian Paralympic Committee and David Borja as former FIFA Development Manager (Asia) and Advisor to the AFC President. 

Moving forward, WAFF and Para Football will sustain the positive collaboration and partnership for the growth of Para Football in the region, while supporing each of the member associations in the development of projects and national Para Football strategies to grow opportunities in their respective countries. 

Khalil Al Salem, General Secretary of WAFF, referred to the importance of the activities that have been held thus far in relation to football for people with disabilities, and considered that these workshops, which come within a long and extensive project and strategic partnership between WAFF and Para Football, would enhance awareness and interest in football for people with disabilities and expand it in the region. Al Salem expressed his great appreciation for the efforts made by all parties for the success of the series of workshops that were held, and the interaction of all participants and their eagerness to present their experiences, which helped achieve the desired goals.