The History of Amputee Soccer

By: Emily Eitzman / USAFF Technical Director /

July 30, 2023

Soccer has established itself as the most popular sport globally, and it continues to draw larger audiences in the United States with the passage of time. Women in soccer have made tremendous strides over the past few years towards equality and fairness, yet more work remains. As we look at female athletes with limb differences, the work remaining is even greater.

Although amputee soccer has been around for over 40 years, the sport is really in its infancy. The game was codified by the founder of the sport, Don Bennett, in the 1980s, in Seattle, WA. The first international amputee soccer tournament was held in the Emerald City in 1984. Five men’s teams, hailing from the US, Canada, and Central America, participated in the historical event. In just a few years, many more countries would participate. In 2002, the World Amputee Football Association (WAFF) was established, and the organization has increasingly garnered support from FIFA. Currently, the WAFF World Cup is held every 4 years. In the 2022 Amputee Football World Cup held in Türkiye, 24 teams battled for the title with Türkiye winning the championship over Angola.

Historically, female amputees have had to position themselves alongside men on the pitch. Amie Donathan, board member of United States Amputee Football Federation (USAFF), was one of only two females playing in the 2022 WAFF World Cup. Though there are some countries which have invested in the women’s side, the US has only recently begun focusing on development of the sport for female adaptive athletes. So, for Donathan, playing with the men on the World stage was a welcomed opportunity to draw attention to a need: for inclusivity and accessibility for women in amputee soccer.

USAFF’s mission is to heighten awareness and provide the women’s arm the traction it deserves. With passion and commitment by both its members and community partners, inclusive and equal opportunities are growing rapidly for female amputees. The impact on the lives of many young girls and women with limb differences will forever be extraordinary.

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