David Mendes celebrates a goal. / SUR

Football without limits

Flamencos Amputados Sur, an amputee football club in Antequera, which was only created in 2019, is a pioneer in Spain and the current national champion

CRISTINA PINTO

No limits. No barriers. Passion for sport in its purest form. The ability to overcome, no matter what. These are some of the ways that could be used to describe Flamencos Amputados Sur, the first club in Spain to introduce football for athletes who are amputees. It hasn't been going long, as it only began in 2019, but can already feel proud of how much it has grown, not only in terms of sport but also in personal achievement.

There are only four clubs for athletes of this type in Spain, and this one, which is based in Malaga province, brings together all the amputee footballers in Andalucía. The home of Flamencos Amputados Sur is in Antequera, which is also the case for the man who has made all this happen, Manuel Pacheco, the club coach, who has been part of the football world all his life. He started this project because of a colleague at work.

"A friend of mine is an amputee and a while back he asked me to give a hand with the assocation, but at that time I was busy in Antequera. As soon as I could I joined to help them out, and here we are now," he says.

Watching this team play a match is exciting. In two 25-minute halves, these players compete on seven-a-side pitches at the highest physical level. The goalkeepers are arm amputees and the players are all leg amputees. "Using crutches is the most demanding thing of all, they have to make very wide and exaggerated movements," says Pacheco.

On the grass, the playing positions are the same as with any other football team and the training is very similar.

The players and trainers of Flamencos Amputados del Sur, during the championship with the Spanish team. / SUR

"I have trained conventional football teams and I can say that the training is the same as for any of them. What we do is adapt the times and spaces of the game, but the tasks during training are practically the same," he says.

The players train in Antequera at least once a month, and there are also virtual training sessions. They also train in other towns which are prepared to lend their facilities for tournaments and matches.

The players from Flamenco Amputados Sur are all ages and from all over Andalucïa: Nico García, Saber, David Mendes, Marcos, Fran Vaquero, Kike, Jaime Tonda, Fran Castilla, David Suárez, Rojano, Jesús Orea, Carpin, Joselu and Aitor. In the junior team are Lorenzo, De la Osa, Pedro, Álex and Guille. Of these players, two are from Malaga.

"We have Guille, who is 12, and Pedro, who is from Estepona," says Pacheco. He is the head of the technical team, which also consists of Eloy García, trainer, and physiotherapist Julio Rivera.

International success

The soul of competition is in the blood of these Flamencos Amputados Sur players. In April they won the Spanish amputee football club championship and not long ago part of this Andalusian team made history by being selected for the Spanish national amputee football team. They reached the final of the European Championship, and came second.

Their coach, Manuel Pacheco, second in the national team, explains how they achieved their silver medal:

"We had five players from Flamencos Amputados del Sur, as well as me in my role as coach and the physiotherapist, Julio. It was a great championship, there were 16 teams in total and you can see how amputee football is growing at a Europeanlevel. We have the backing of UEFA and we are working on getting this acceppted as an exhibition sport for the Paralympic Games, " he says.

As for La Liga in Spain, they are hoping this can be developed for next season.

"Right now it is being defined by the Federation of Sports for People with Physical Disabilities, to see whether in 2022 there can be a two-round league, like there is for wheelchair basketball, which is the king of sport in that disability," he explains.

"It is a sport which is expanding. We are growing and we hope that after becoming the runner-up in the European championship there will be a lot more support and it will be given a boost. It is a vibrant and spectacular sport," he says.

In addition, football for amputees is already a reality in Malaga province and is already being noticed more. This year it will form part of the provincial government's Malaga Compite assistance programme.

In sport there are no limits, and that is something which the members of the Flamencos Amputados Sur club demonstrate on the pitch at every possible opportunity.