A football team for amputees has been launched in Belfast - the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.
Belfast Amputee Football Club was set up by Justin Guiney with an aim to helping amputees recover from their ordeals, improve mental health and meet other people.
The team, which is open to all ages and genders, hopes to compete in the national league for the sport, and already has offers to play friendlies across the UK and Ireland following their first practice.
Good for mental and physical well being
Founder Justin, who is an amputee footballer himself, said, “Amputee football has helped me so much over the years that I want others to experience it.
“After losing my left arm in a workplace accident in 2011 I found myself moping around the house a lot.I really just wanted to be able to go out and enjoy myself again.”
It was staff at the hospital where Justin was treated that told him about the LimbPower games, where he went and met the English Amputee Football Team.
They put him in touch with the Irish Amputee Football Association, and Justin has been a player ever since.
The lack of teams and awareness of the sport in Northern Ireland inspired him to set this new team up. A number of players have joined already, and Justin said that they hope to reach out to ex-military amputees.
Reaching out to ex-military
“Amputee football is still such a new a new sport and you'll find that, if an amputee isn't involved, it's typically because they don't know about it,” he said.
“It's not all about the football, but about having a safe place where you can go and be with people like you. You can talk to people about your experience and get advice if you want it, based from the experience of those who have been through similar ordeals.
“Exercising also plays a huge role in mental health and I believe that amputee football has already helped so many people that it needs to be available to the community.”
Belfast Amputee Football Team had their first practice on Sunday (24 March), and Justin said it went well. Members from the Irish Amputee Football Association - including founders of the sport in Ireland - travelled to Belfast to coach the new players.
Training is open to everybody
Justin said, “The players have said that they really enjoyed the session. They were a bit tired, but happy to have a place where they can go, exercise, socialise and not feel judged.
“They now have a new motivation and goals and a determination to meet those goals.”
Any amputee can turn up to the team’s open training sessions every other Sunday to meet people and take part in the sport.
The team meets at Olympia Leisure Centre on the Boucher Road, Belfast. Training takes place between 9am and 10am, and the next one is on 7 April.
Amputee football is available to people of all genders who may have lost a limb above the ankle or wrist, or have been born with a partial limb or without a limb.