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Powerchair Football, also known as Power Soccer, is a variant of association football for people with physical disabilities. Players use power wheelchairs in order to maneuver and kick an oversized football. The game is played in a gymnasium on a regulation basketball court. Two teams of four players use powerchairs equipped with footguards to attack, defend, and spin-kick a 13-inch (330 mm) football in an attempt to score goals.
According to researcher Dr. Michael S. Jeffress, powerchair football was first played in France in the 1970s. Various forms of the sport developed concurrently throughout Europe and North America. It gained recognition in 1983 at the British Columbia Games for the Disabled and in 2004 by the National Disability Sports Alliance. The San Francisco Bay area and Boston area were early centers of power soccer activity in the US through the Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program and the Massachusetts Hospital School. In January 2005, 24 representatives from 7 nations (France, United States, Canada, Japan, England, Belgium, and Portugal) met in Le Chesnay, France to lay the foundation for forming the International Powerchair Football Association. Nine months later a second meeting was held in Coimbra, Portugal to finalize a standardized set of rules for international play. Finally, in July 2006, in the context of an international tournament in Atlanta, Georgia, delegates finalized a constitution and changed the name of the governing body to the Federation Internationale de Powerchair Football Associations (FIPFA). During this same timeframe the United States Power Soccer Association (USPSA) was formed with headquarters in the Indianapolis, Indiana area. Since then, numerous powerchair associations have formed and the number of teams competing within FIPFA worldwide is estimated at over 250. Although Powerchair Football lost its 2010 bid to enter the Paralympic Games, the organization is positioning itself to bid again in the future.
The sport is played in on a standard-sized basketball court. Each team is allowed 4 players on the court at one time including the goalkeeper. A match consists of two 20-minute periods. Because of the two-dimensional aspect of this game (players are typically unable to kick the ball into the air), artificial space has to be created around the players. The two distinct differences in the laws from the able bodied game are: 1) the "two-on-one" rule, and 2) the 3-in-the-goal-area violation.
In the case of either of these infractions (2-on-1 and 3-in-the-area), the referee may refrain from making the call if the player in question is not affecting the play (similar to the concept of the offside law in able-bodied football).
Additionally, because many of the players do not have the upper body strength to throw the ball with their arms, when the ball leaves the touchline of the field, the players kick the ball back into play. In other words, instead of a "throw-in" from the sideline, powerchair football has a "kick-in"...and because the ball is 'kicked' a goal can be scored directly.
Intentionally striking or ramming another player may result in a penalty.
Players are required to use a powerchair with 4 or more wheels. The maximum allowable speed during a match is 10 km/h (6.2 mph), and the referees will inspect the players' speed before the match begins. A lap belt and foot guard are also required equipment. The ball is an oversized soccer ball, 13 inches (33 cm) in diameter.
The first Powerchair Football World Cup was held in Tokyo, Japan in October 2007. The final was played on 13 October, with the United States beating France in a penalty shootout. The second Powerchair Football World Cup was held in Paris, France in November 2011. The final was played on 6 November, with the United States beating England 3–0 in regulation. This was the first US team to win back-to-back World Cup Championship in football. The third World Cup was scheduled for 2017 in Kissimmee, Florida. The winner was France.
The first Americas Champions Cup was held in Atlanta, Georgia in October 2009 between the top US and Canadian club teams. Atlanta Synergy won the Americas Champions Cup 2010 defeating by 4 goals to 0 the Tampa Thunder in a final where Atlanta confirmed its superiority seen during all the tournament in Burnaby, Canada.
The Powerchair Football Confederation of the Americas (PFCA), held the first "Copa Americas" ("I Mundialito de Power Soccer") tournament – a national team competition – in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil between 2–4 May 2014. The national teams of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Uruguay, the US, and Australia (a guest team) played for the championship of the Americas hemisphere. The US team won in the final, beating Australia 6–0. [www.americanpowersoccer.com]
In July 2014, six nations (Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Ireland and Switzerland) battled it out for the honour to be crowned EPFA Nations Cup Champions. The event was held at the University of Limerick (UL) in Ireland, with five of the six teams booking their places in the Powerchair World Cup Finals in 2015. The only team not to qualify was Switzerland as they finished bottom of the tournament group. France were crowned the eventual winners beating England 5–0 in the final