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Push to bring inclusive football to eastern Victoria for people with disabilities

David Kelly is on a mission to bring an inclusive football team to eastern Victoria.

Growing up in Lakes Entrance, he developed a love for the game at an early age and played for a number of clubs without inclusive teams in the East Gippsland region.

“I love everything about it.

David Kelly wants to bring inclusive football to Gippsland.(Supplied)

David, who was born with an intellectual disability, said there could be barriers for people with disabilities to get a game at local football clubs.

It wasn’t until he was an adult that he discovered the Victorian Football Integration Development Association (FIDA), a competition set up specifically for people with intellectual disabilities.

Feeling more welcome playing among his peers, David used to complete a six-hour round trip on the train every week to play at the closest inclusive team to him in Melbourne’s outer east.

Now, he wants those same opportunities for his community closer to home.

“[FIDA] is just way more fun and easygoing,” he said.

“I’ve lived here for 35 years, I grew up in this town — there’s nothing for people with disabilities around here.

“It’s always been our aim.”

State now has 28 clubs

Game of football for players with an intellectual disability.  Team wearing blue red and white jumpers.
The Phillip Island Football Netball Club hosted an inclusive football come-and-try day in May.(Supplied: Beau Vernon)

Now in its 31st season, there are more than 800 registered FIDA players across 28 clubs in western, central and northern districts of Victoria.

These leagues cover regional areas including Bendigo, Shepparton and Geelong, but so far the closest team available to players living in Gippsland is based in Springvale, almost 300 kilometers west of David’s hometown.

Victorian FIDA president Peter Ryan said he was eager to see the competition arrive in the region.

“Growing up and playing footy myself, nearly every club I played at had someone with an obvious intellectual impairment who would have loved to have put a jumper on and have a game, but never got an opportunity,” he said.

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