From back, Rockhampton's Oren Mazzer, Jeremy Thorpe, Queensland Paralympic Football coach Terry Kennedy, (front left) Brett Butler, Matt Bell, young Sebastian Robe, 11, and David Barber at the Frenchville Sports Club. Photo Austin King / The Morning Bulletin
From back, Rockhampton's Oren Mazzer, Jeremy Thorpe, Queensland Paralympic Football coach Terry Kennedy, (front left) Brett Butler, Matt Bell, young Sebastian Robe, 11, and David Barber at the Frenchville Sports Club. Photo Austin King / The Morning Bulletin Austin King

Paralympic cuts because 'unlikely to win medal' sparks anger

FUNDING cuts to Australia's Paralympic soccer team could crush captain David Barber's dream.

At 35, the cerebral palsy sufferer has overcome the odds to captain the Pararoos since its inception 17 years ago.

But with his oldest child only five, David is worried they might never get to see their dad representing Australia on the soccer field.

The Australian Sports Commission has cut all of its $175,000 funding for the Pararoos because it has deemed the team unlikely to win a medal.

But for the Rockhampton father of three, it is not just a game. Being a part of the Pararoos is about equality and opportunities for disabled people.

David goes so far as to say it has shaped him into the man he is today.

Pararoos players suffer from either cerebral palsy, an acquired brain injury, or an inability to walk or run well.

The Pararoos are ranked 10th of 50 teams world-wide, while the Socceroos are ranked 62nd.

The Australian Institute of Sport believes there is not enough evidence to suggest the Pararoos will qualify for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.

Australia's new Winning Edge policy deems that sports with higher chances of winning medals receive funding.

So the axe has been taken to the inspirational Pararoos.

It is money that would have used for training camps and travelling to overseas matches.

Altogether, Paralympic sports have lost $230,000, while able-bodied sports will receive $700,000 more.

David refused to call the cuts discrimination against Paralympic sports, but said the new policy was almost un-Australian.

"It's about so much more than just sport," he said.

"It's about life and opportunities and getting the Aussie spirit out there."

David also feels devastated for youngsters training across Australia to fulfil their dreams of playing for the Pararoos.

The team's coach, Paul Brown, has started a petition on charge.org called Stop discriminating against athletes with disabilities: Save the Pararoos.

It has already attracted 70,000 supporters.

David has described the comments from those who have signed the petition as "incredibly humbling".

He's hoping people power will convince the Australian Sports Commission to re-instate funding.

David is urging people to like the Pararoos' Facebook page and vote for the petition.

"It's never over," David said.



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