Everton FC Amputees will fly the flag for England this weekend as they compete in the inaugural European Amputee Football Federation (EAFF) Champions League in Tbilisi, Georgia.
As current national champions, the Everton Amputee team will represent the UK in a competition that will consist of title winners from Russia, Poland, Georgia, Turkey and Republic of Ireland, and will see Europe’s finest amputee football clubs come together in the largest and competitive amputee football club tournament in the history of the sport.
Everton FC Amputees qualified for the EAFF Champions League when they were crowned 2017/18 champions in the English Amputee Football Association (EAFA) Irwin Mitchell Inclusive League Division One final.
Managed by Everton in the Community’s Disability Manager and former World Amputee Footballer of the Year, Steve Johnson, the team flew out to Georgia on Friday, having recently finished second in the English Amputee Football Association (EAFA) Northern League.
The team has also qualified for the National League play-offs which will take place on Saturday 29 June, as well as qualifying for the National Disability Cup final where they will take on the Portsmouth Amputee team at St George’s Park on Friday 14 June.
The Everton Amputee team boast three England Amputee internationals, including England captain David Tweed, and two England Under-23 internationals.
Speaking on the team’s arrival in Georgia, National Football Museum Hall of Fame inductee Steve Johnson said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to show what we can do on an international stage. We are in a tough group against a full-time professional team from Turkey who get paid for playing football whilst we are purely amateur, but we have had a strong season and go into the tournament with a great sense of belief.
“To play in the first-ever EAFF Champions League is a tremendous honour for our Everton Amputees team and we are proud to wear the Everton badge on our shirts and will give it our all."
EAFF President Matuesz Widlak added: "I'm really happy of this new European Amputee Football Federation project. EAFF Champions League arouses great emotion, not only among clubs, but also fans and the media. This is great, and this tournament is already helping us in the development of new clubs and new leagues in Europe and to include big and famous clubs in the world of amputee football. This is our goal!”
The European Amputee Football Federation, which was established in 2016, has taken huge strides forward in promoting and developing the sport of amputee football. In 2017, the first EAFF Championships took place in Istanbul, Turkey which saw an attendance of more than 40,000 people for the final between Turkey and England.
This, along with many other projects, has ignited amputee football throughout Europe which has set the precedent for the upcoming EAFF Champions League.
All the Everton FC Amputees games from the tournament will be live streamed on the European Amputee Football Federation Facebook page and the opening ceremony will take place on Saturday 25 May at 10am Georgian time (2pm UK time).