Scotland qualify for 2024 Euro amputee football championships
and live on Freeview channel 276
Over 400 fans flocked to Dalgety Bay Sports Centre to support the national side in action against Albania, Azerbaijan, Holland and Kosovo. It was the biggest international para-football tournament of its kind to take place in Scotland. The Scots finished third in their group to secure their place in the 2024 Euros in France with wins over Kosovo and Albania.
For player and tournament director, Iain Mathew, it was worth all the work which went into hosting the competition. The Fife Paralympian, and Ashley Reid, founder of the Amputee Football Association Scotland, stepped in after Holland pulled out.
“Leg off - game on!” was the cry as the Scots opened the tournament with a 2-0 win over Kosovo, with debutant Ewen Moir, from Garve in Ross-shire netting the first of his hat-trick of goals in the tournament.
The competition featured 18 teams in four sections, with Group D coming to the Kingdom for two days of action. The Scots squad featured players from as far apart as Inverness to Newcastle, and they were keen to make their mark. They normally play in the League of Ireland on a monthly basis, but want to raise their profile and that of the sport to ensure football is accessible to people even after the loss of a limb.
Ian said: “When you have gone through the trauma of losing a limb, whether as result of an accident or illness such as cancer, there is a huge mental health aspect to it. Here, you meet other guys in the same position and talk about the challenges you have gone through. As a group, the guys are really tight.
“Up until November we hadn’t won an international, but then we beat Belgium twice so it was great to keep that winning feeling going. Rather than play friendlies we want to go into competition and find our level. We wanted to qualify for the European championships and get a chance to play and get that experience, and with it we can get more exposure for the sport”
Holland were meant to be hosting the competition but pulled out in March-April. We were asked if we would take it on by the European federation. It was a big step, but we knew this was a great chance for us to grow the support in Scotland.”
The competitive nature of amputee football was evident in the opening games. There were two penalties and a red card alone in Holland’s opening game against Azerbaijan, and the battle for every ball underlined the upper body strength needed to compete.
Scotland’s opening goal in the competition was a fluke own goal as a ball ricocheted off a Kosovo defender into his own net, but their second, a header from Moir from a corner, was as good as any you’ll see at at any Fife ground on a Saturday. There was also a missed penalty - the Kosovo ‘keeper winning the mind games, telling the taker from his goal-line: “I think you’re going to miss - I’m sure you are!”
The tournament enjoyed good support from Fife businesses and Fife Council, and there was formal recognition of its importance with Maree Todd, Scottish Minister for Health and Sport, presenting the medals and trophies.
Ashley Reid, hailed the weekend “an incredible success - both for the Scotland team and for Scottish football.”She added: “To have teams from four nations coming to Scotland for an event of this magnitude is testament to the growth of amputee football across Europe. We are extremely grateful to Fife Council and Fife Leisure Trust for their support in hosting the Nations League but equally to all the spectators and volunteers who braved the weather to support the teams. The atmosphere was electric and I'm incredibly proud of the team and their achievements. Now, as we prepare for France, our focus will be on both fitness and funding to get the team there."