Russia reign at disabled world finals

While the ongoing U-17 and women’s showpieces dominate attention, another World Cup has been thrilling crowds and earning admirers in the Netherlands. The Cerebral Palsy International Sports & Recreation Association (CPISRA) Football World Championships reached a conclusion on Friday evening, with Russia taking gold and eight teams securing tickets to next year’s Paralympic Games in London.

Sixteen nations had emerged successfully from qualifiers in Buenos Aires, Glasgow and Guanzhou to take part in this global showpiece, the stars of which either have cerebral palsy or have suffered a traumatic brain injury or stroke. A ratio of players with varying levels of disability is maintained, ensuring a level playing field and opportunities for all in this worthy and well-organised seven-a-side event.

Locals in the three host cities of Assen, Emmen and Hoogeveen certainly responded enthusiastically to the exciting football, skill and commitment on show, and ultimately – despite the best efforts of Brazil, Spain et al – there was an unusual look to the podium. Russia proved emphatic and worthy winners, comfortably seeing off the likes of Argentina, England and Brazil en route to a thumping 6-1 final win over Iran.

Yet while fans of Russia and Iran may be unaccustomed to seeing their nations compete for world titles, the finalists are in fact established heavyweights in disability football. They began the tournament seeded alongside Brazil and Ukraine, and this ranking proved accurate, with all four nations qualifying for the semi-finals.

Recognition for Murvanadze, Adelaars 
Ukraine had pipped Russia to the European title last year, winning 9-8 on penalties after a tense 1-1 draw, but they had to settle for third place on this occasion after being overpowered by Iran in the last four. The Brazilians were typically entertaining, but fell short against their two Eastern European rivals, going down 4-0 to Russia in the semi-finals before losing 8-3 to Ukraine in a free-scoring third-place play-off.

There was cause for celebration outside the top four too, with the Netherlands, Scotland, Argentina and USA finishing in fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth place respectively to secure involvement at the 2012 Paralympics. England were among the teams who missed out on a top eight finish, but their players also have a chance of participating at the London games, with Olympic rules ensuring that the Three Lions will join forces with the Scots under the banner of Great Britain.

One man well worth looking out for at the Paralympics is Russia’s Lasha Murvanadze, whose inspirational performances earned him the tournament’s MVP award. There was also recognition for the Netherlands’ Bart Adelaars, who was voted best goalkeeper, while Korea Republic – despite finishing bottom of the pile – at least made plenty of friends, picking up the competition’s Fair Play award.

All involved were a credit to their sport, and the evidence of the past couple of weeks would suggest that the CPISRA World Championships is a tournament sure to grow in stature and gain in recognition.

Final ranking
1st - Russia
2nd - Iran
3rd - Ukraine
4th - Brazil
5th - The Netherlands
6th - Scotland
7th - Argentina
8th - USA
9th - Ireland
10th - England
11th - Australia
12th - Canada
13th - Japan
14th - Spain
15th - Finland
16th - Korea Republic 

Visit the links on the right for more details on the CPISRA World Championships and the organisation’s work in general.