By: Emily Eitzman / USAFF Technical Director / emilyeitzman.com
March 31, 2023
In November of 2022, a group of very passionate individuals met to discuss the long-standing void of inclusivity and accessibility presenting itself in the most beloved game around the world: soccer. The discussion specifically centered around the need for more opportunities for women with limb differences to play the game.
That same day, these individuals formed the board of an organization, the United States Amputee Football Federation (USAFF), that vowed to make positive change in the field of adaptive sports. Amie Donathan, a board member of the organization and an adaptive athlete herself, is one of the key pieces of USAFF. During the recent Amputee Football World Cup in Türkiye, Amie, at 18 years old, was one of only two women who played and competed amongst the men. “It was surreal,” she shared. “Beyond all my dreams as a kid.” Amie’s skills and hard work have made her a model athlete, inspiring the creation of USAFF and inspiring many young women to follow in her footsteps. Amie speaks very highly of the organization, expressing that USAFF “means a lot to [her] because [she] wants to give other women the opportunity to play a competitive sport like [she] had.”
Just months after the creation of USAFF, the organization held its first-ever soccer camp in Frisco, Texas for women with limb differences. The camp included appearances from Amputee Football World Cup players Amie Donathan, Kavi Pandya, Robert Ferguson, and Travis Olivia. The camp was a great success with the addition of several new players including Madeleine Lopez of Dallas and Samantha Castillo of North Richardson Hills in addition to new partners such as The PIT Frisco, Conrad Sport and Spine, Miracle League Frisco, and MobilityWorks Worldwide.
In addition to these incredible players, the camp was graced with the presence of Dee Malchow, also known as “Mama Dee.” In an interview with Mama Dee, she shared her story and detailed how she came to be one of the cofounders of amputee soccer in 1983 in Seattle, Washington. She became an amputee around the time she was beginning nursing school. This changed her life’s trajectory, and Mama Dee eventually began working in orthopedics, helping other amputees. She discovered amputee soccer and worked hard to share this new passion of hers with others. “It’s beyond therapeutic. It gives you hope,” she said. Mama Dee is a key reason the sport is growing in the US. She concluded her interview by reminding everyone that “we can do what we set our mind to with help from others.” USAFF aims to provide that help wherever it is needed.
Finally, after the camp in Frisco, Texas, members of the USAFF team went to Barranquilla, Colombia to help them run their first ever women-focused amputee soccer camp. There was an incredible turnout with even the First Lady of Colombia showing support!
Sports are much more than fun games. Sports give players confidence. Sports foster friendships and family. Sports provide distractions and outlets and opportunities. USAFF is well aware of the impact that soccer has on amputees, and the organization will continue working towards a more inclusive playing field to ensure that anyone and everyone who wants to play amputee soccer has that opportunity provided to them.
Image by Randy Schoening