Melbourne City FC Powerchair captain Luke David has played an integral role in bringing all-abilities football to Victoria and driving participation in our state.
Established in 2015, City’s Powerchair team now compete in the Powerchair Victoria Premier League, where Luke has had a huge influence both on and off the court.
Powerchair football is modified for people who use powerchairs, or as some people know them as electric wheelchairs, for daily mobility. The rules have been built around making the sport of football more inclusive and accessible for individuals with powerchairs to participate.
“It’s 4 v 4 with one designated goalkeeper for each team,” Luke explains. “We play on an indoor basketball court with a football that’s about 1.5 x bigger than a regular football.”
“There’s a few different rules and restrictions, we have a speed limit too, so the powerchairs aren’t allowed to go over 10km/h and we get speed tested before each match.
“We play in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, but the game is played all around Australia and across the world, it’s actually one of the fastest growing adaptive sports globally.”
As part of City in the Community’s International Day of People with Disabilities celebrations, Luke joined City’s Young Leaders on the day to discuss all things powerchair football, living with a disability, playing for the club he supports and some of the challenges that Melbourne’s lockdown period created.
Touching on his powerchair football career, Luke explains how he and Australia were first introduced to the sport.
“I’ve been playing powerchair sports since 2005 when I was 12-years-old, but I didn’t learn about powerchair football until about 2011 and that was from a workshop in Sydney when international players from America, France and Japan came down to introduce the sport to all players across Australia,” he said.
“I’ve been playing it ever since then, but the sport is still relatively new in Victoria where we don’t have as many players as we would like to have, but it’s definitely growing here which is great.
“In terms of the impact that it’s had on my life, I’ve never been able to play football and it’s given me that avenue to compete in the sport that I love so much,” he added.
“It’s been great for my mental health and also making new friends and being around a community who face similar challenges to those that I face – we all have physical disabilities and it’s great to have a really strong network of friends and support when we do face those challenges.”
Reflecting on the opportunity to play for the Club that he loves, Luke explains how it’s a dream come true.
“It’s been amazing to play for the club that I support and it’s something that I never thought would be possible,” he said. “I get down to AAMI Park when I can and to be recognised by some of the City fans is wonderful and great for the overall awareness of the sport.”
City in the Community received a Westpac Foundation grant which has enabled the community team to continue supporting the team in every way possible and assisting them in achieving their long-term goals of growing awareness and growing participation.
“Over the past year we were lucky enough to receive a grant from the Westpac Foundation and City in the Community has been tremendous in supporting us with growing our numbers, finding more volunteers to support us and our club, helping out with coaching and refereeing and so much more,” Luke reflected.
“One of our biggest aims for the next 12 months is to grow our team and continue to grow awareness around what powerchair football is and about who powerchair athletes are.”
Powerchair football brings a lot of joy to Luke and his fellow teammates lives’ and having that taken away during Melbourne’s recent lockdown period was one of the many factors that made that period so difficult on Luke’s mental health.
Opening up on the experience, Luke discussed some of the challenges he faced as someone in the high-risk medical category.
“Lockdown was very tough, mostly on my mental health,” he said. “I’m a very passionate and competitive sports person, so not being able to do that for 7-8 months was really hard.”
“Some days I didn’t want to get out of bed because there was nothing to do. I was fortunate to be able to work from home, but I found it really challenging on my mental health with not being able to leave the house during lockdown.
“The anxiety and unknown of how bad COVID-19 had the possibility to be was also really difficult – I’ve obviously got a lot of respiratory illnesses so I’m in the high-risk category and had to isolate from everyone apart from my partner and my mum.
“During that period, I didn’t allow anyone to come over so it’s great to see friends and family again and return to playing football.”
International Day of People with Disabilities is a day to recognise and value the diversity of our global community and to cherish the role we all play, regardless of our abilities.
"I think it’s really important to celebrate everything that people with disabilities accomplish throughout their lives that people don’t know about, but it’s also great to educate the general society about disability," Luke said. "People with disabilities deserve the right to get out and live the lives they want to and not only today, but everyday, people with disabilities should feel supported and included in our local community."