WORLD CUP DREAM: Cosimo Cirillo, 17, has his sights set on qualifying for the Pararoos 2019 World Cup squad in Spain. To help fund the Pararoos program, a feature film, in which ‘Cosi’ stars, about the Pararoos has been created. The film will be launched on Monday. Photo: PAUL MENSCH
By MITCH RODD
LOCAL lad Cosimo Cirillo will be glued to his TV screen for the FIFA World Cup for more reasons than most.
Representing Australia is something all sports people aspire to. At 17-years-old, Cosimo has already experienced that thrill with the Pararoos.
For those who are unaware, the Pararoos are our international seven-a-side team for athletes with cerebral palsy, like Cosimo, and other neurological diseases, including stroke and traumatic brain injury.
Unless some financial support comes soon, however, there may not be any more opportunities for one of our budding stars to wear the green and gold.
In 2015, the Australian Sports Commission withdrew all government funding for the Pararoos program. Following the decision, Football Federation Australia (FFA) partnered with the Australian Sports Foundation (ASF) to establish a tax-deductible fund to raise money to support footballing dreams.
One of the biggest dreams for ‘Cosi’ and his teammates is to qualify for the 2019 World Cup in Spain.
The inspiring story and people involved in the Pararoos has been documented by film-maker Tom Ferguson. The documentary, which will feature Sunraysia’s own Cosi, will premiere in Sydney on Monday night, and will double as a fund-raiser to go towards the Pararoos next World Cup qualifying event – the Asian Championships in Iran – in November.
Ferguson, who self-funded his pro-bono project, captured game day and behind the scenes footage of the Pararoos at their 2016 tournament in Denmark, and their 2017 World Championships tilt in Argentina.
None of the players have seen the finished product, and Cosi said he was excited to see the film.
“We fly up to Sydney to watch the premiere on Monday night. We haven’t seen it yet so we’re really looking forward to how it comes together,” he said.
“Tom came to our camps and also with us to Argentina. He did a lot of filming about what goes on behind the scenes and all the work we do off-field.
“A lot of people don’t really know what we’re all about. Hopefully this film will give an indication of how we live our lives.
“We wish we could do this full time but we just live our lives and do this on the side because we love it.
“I think this documentary will really help show what we’re all about and hopefully get us some of that support we need.
“It’s also great to show to other kids who have a disability that you can play sport and you can still represent your country if you want to. Hopefully we can give them something to look up to and remind them that they’re not alone.
“I’m certainly not expecting people from Mildura to go up to Sydney to watch it but we’d love it if anybody wanted to make a donation. Any amount is generous and we appreciate anything we can get.”
The St Joseph’s College Year 11 student is one of the youngest players in the Pararoos squad, and one of only two from regional areas. He is a regular traveler to Melbourne for squad trainings. While he stays in Mildura he trains and plays with Mildura City Soccer Club.
The next target for Cosi is to make the Pararoos squad for the Asian Championships in November.
“My goal is to make that squad,” he said.
“All of these tournaments and hopefully fund-raising from the film is all about helping us to be part of the World Cup in Spain next year.
“The World Cup is what soccer people dream about being part of. The tournament in Russia in the next few weeks will hopefully be a snapshot of what could happen (for us).
“If all the countries and us can come together and show we can be competitive, hopefully it may help with recognition not only for soccer, but for all sports for people with disabilities out there because there isn’t as much recognition as we feel there should be.
“The set up is of a very professional standard too. Everything is set up really well to help us improve. Potentially we could be part of the Paralympics as well.”
Cosi added that support from home was vital for his opportunities to represent Australia.
“My parents have dedicated a lot of time to me and making these opportunities possible,” he said.
“School has helped me organise extra times for study to stay on task. They’ve been really supportive.
“I’ve received lots of support from local clubs and my friends. That’s why I like my sport. Everyone supports each other.”
For more information, or to donate to their 2019 World Cup campaign, visit www.pararoos.com.au/pararoos-movie.