Devastation for Fife footballer as SFA withdraws from Cerebral Palsy World Cup

Stephen Young of Glenrothes Strollers Superstars
Stephen Young of Glenrothes Strollers Superstars

Growing up, all Stephen Young ever wanted to do was pull on the famous dark blue colours of Scotland.

Like other youngsters across the country, fantasies of playing at Hampden or scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final were played out on local parks.

But while cerebral palsy robbed Stephen of the chance to represent Scotland at that level, the 21-year-old remained determined to play for his country.

Despite his condition, Stephen has always played the game he loves and is a key man for the Glenrothes Strollers Superstars, an all inclusive football side made up of players with disabilities.

His perseverance looked to have paid off when he was called up by national selectors to play for Scotland at the 2017 Cerebral Palsy World Championships in Argentina in September.

That was until, again, he had his chance robbed from him when the Scottish Football Association (SFA) bowed down to non-existent pressure and pulled the side out from the event.

It pointed to a change in player eligibility rules by the governing body, the IFCPF, which allows any player possessing a British passport to represent any of the home nations.

The SFA claims this sets a dangerous precedent which may “potentially jeopardise Scotland’s status as an independent football nation”.

The players have been left simply devastated by the decision.

Stephen, a sport and fitness student, said: “I’m gutted.

“I’ve worked for years to play for my country so to find out was just really hard to take.

“I’ve played since I was young, either by myself or in teams.

“It’s just a complete over-reaction.

“When I was asked to play I spoke with the manager and said it didn’t matter if all I played was ten seconds, I just wanted to play for Scotland.

“Nobody could have taken that away from me.”

Stephen was part of a Scottish squad which had already started planning for the trip after being called up following impressive performances in front of scouts while playing for the Strollers.

The SFA has been roundly criticised for the move which chief executive Stewart Regan has attempted to defend.

Mr Regan said: “It is extremely regrettable that despite our appeals the IFCPF has chosen to enforce this rule change, which we believe would have a detrimental effect on Scotland’s status as an independent football nation.

“We have taken every possible action in an attempt to allow the team to compete but have determined that the new rule leaves us with no option other than to withdraw from all IFCPF competitions, including the World Championships, with immediate effect.

“Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the players who were set to represent their country on the world stage later this year.

“This is a disappointing outcome to what has been a successful journey for the Scotland CP team, of whom the entire country can be proud.”

Scotland has a proud history of involvement in cerebral palsy football and has regularly competed in IFCPF competitions since the European Championships in 2006.