The Arsenal Foundation helped Helder Silva, one of our longest-serving Arsenal Amputee footballers, represent England at the Amputee World Cup. Here’s how he and the Three Lions got on…
“My second Amputee World Cup took place in Istanbul, Turkey across September and October 2022. The competition welcomed 24 nations in total, and it was another major tournament for England, who finished fifth at Euro 2020 after being knocked out in the quarter-finals. Before that we had the last World Cup in 2018 in which we finished in sixth place.
“We set off for Istanbul with the youngest squad in the whole tournament – a squad full of young cubs coming through the ranks of the junior programme with The Eafa. Despite that slight lack of experience, we had high expectations for the tournament, and there was a real sense of togetherness and a great team spirit within the squad.
“In our group we had USA, Indonesia and Argentina. We lost 1-0 in the opening game against the USA, won 3-0 vs Indonesia and lost 3-2 vs Argentina, which meant we finished in third place in the group. We qualified for the last 16 as one of the best third-place teams in the group stage. We then had the huge task of facing the defending World Champions, Angola. We fought with all our strength but lost 1-0 to a goal on the second half of extra time. We were knocked out in the Round of 16, but we could hold our heads high.
“Despite the fact we could no longer lift the trophy we still had games to play, because a lack of international games throughout the regular season means every team needs to finish in a specific position to decide the world rankings.
“At this point the highest we could achieve was ninth place. First we beat Poland 3-0, then we faced Japan and won 2-0. Finally, in the play-off game for ninth place we faced Argentina again – and we took ‘revenge’ for the group game defeat by winning 4-3.
“So we are now ninth in the world rankings and the third best team in Europe. It is a huge achievement taking into consideration we were the youngest team and that we’re not professionals – we don’t receive any support from the FA to represent England. Each player and member of staff have their own full-time jobs, and we represent England in our free time as volunteers.
“We depend heavily on donations to run the Amputee Football programme and this is where The Arsenal Foundation is so important to me. Without their support I wouldn’t be able to play football and represent England. The future is looking bright because this group of young cubs turned into Lions in these two weeks together in Istanbul. There are high expectations for what this group can achieve and, with the right support, great things will come.
“Each player needed to raise £1000 which was used to pay for their part of travels, accommodation, food and training equipment. The Arsenal Foundation made a very positive contribution to this project as without its input, it would not be possible for me to represent England at another major tournament.”
For more information on amputee football in England visit www.theeafa.co.uk
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