Most football fans dream of pulling on their club’s kit and competing with the pride and passion they demand of players.Andy Waite and his Western Sydney Wanderers Powerchair teammates have made those dreams a reality. Waite was the instigator behind aligning Powerchair Football – a sport for electric wheelchair users – to his beloved Wanderers in 2013. The team is now set to commence its third competitive season against the likes of Newcastle Jets, Central Coast Mariners and cross-town rivals Sydney FC.
“Powerchair Football has been around the world for decades but is relatively new in Australia,” Waite explains.
“It was introduced here in 2010 and the rest of the Wanderers team started then. I had other commitments with another sport, Electric Wheelchair Hockey (EWH), so I didn’t start until the following season. I was encouraged to join by my mates who were already playing the sport.”
Waite and Powerchair Football in Australia have been mutual beneficiaries. A passionate football fan, he represented his nation in EWH at the World Championships in Italy before making the switch. Within a matter of months he was part of the Poweroos at an unforgettable 2011 World Cup in Paris.
“The experience was something we will always cherish,” Waite says.
“To be the first Australian team in this new sport to take on the world was a huge honour. All the Wanderers team were actually part of the squad and for some of the players it was also their first time heading overseas so that was an experience in itself.”
With fellow Wanderers Ben Keyte and Jacob Cross recently recognised by the Poweroos and pre-season experience away to Brisbane Roar, Waite has high hopes for the season ahead.
More boisterous support from the Red and Black Bloc can only help.
“To have 150 plus of the RBB come and surprise us at one of our matches was surreal and an amazing experience,” Waite remembers.
“Powerchair Football is mainly attended just by family and friends of the players so to have such large numbers turn up was something special for us, something we have never ever had at international level.”
Next Saturday’s season opener in Mt Druitt promises to be another special occasion for the Western Sydney Wanderers’ die-hard fans-turned-stars.
“There are no Smurfs (Sydney FC fans) in our force,” Waite quips.
“We’re all proud Wanderers fans sitting in the RBB each game, supporting the team we have all grown to love over the past three years.”
Kick off in the first match against the Newcastle Jets is 3.00pm at Kevin Betts Stadium, Mt Druitt.