China | For Brazil, silence is golden at 5-a-side Paralympic final

It is no surprise that team doctors often have a more pessimistic evaluation of their players’ abilities than the classifiers from the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CPISRA), the governing body of cerebral palsy football. And CPISRA is always watching matches. Its classifier has the right to upgrade or declassify an athlete if the observer sees less-impaired movement on the field.

That happened to an Irish player at the beginning of the Beijing tournament. Classifiers decided that his cerebral palsy symptoms were so mild that he is not eligible for the Paralympics at all. So Ireland lost one of its most able-bodied players.


The Paralympic Council of Ireland (PCI), the football team, its management and doctor argue that the symptoms of CP can be alleviated with athletic training. In fact, that is why the player, Derek Malone, says sport is vital to him. Irish officials question the world federation’s philosophy of cerebral palsy soccer if elite players prove too agile for the most elite parasport forum.

But there is another story behind the Irish football team’s emotional statements to the media. PCI’s high-performance director admits it was a risk to field Malone. The 28-year-old player started elite soccer in his teens but switched to athletics ahead of the 2004 Paralympics because of classification questions. Thus, the high-performance director says Malone’s disqualification was not a bolt from the blue, but he also intimates that other players should be reevaluated.

So where is the word of God, the FIFA rule book? It does not have jurisdiction in such cases. CPISRA governs seven-a-side Paralympic soccer and the International Blind Sports Federation the five-a-side. FIFA does acknowledge and partner with both federations in some aspects, but it is not clear if FIFA has any interest in joining the Paralympic family.

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