The closest David inclusive football team is a 6 hour round trip. He wants that to change

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

Growing up in Lakes Entrance, he developed a love for the game at a young age, playing for a number of clubs with no inclusive teams in the East Gippsland area.

“I love everything about it.

David Kelly wants to bring football to Gippsland including football.Delivered

David, who was born with an intellectual disability, said there may be barriers for people with disabilities to play a match at local football clubs.

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

Feeling more welcome to play among his peers, David took a six-hour train journey each week to play for the nearest inclusive team in Melbourne’s far east.

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

†[FIDA] is just a lot more fun and easier to deal with,” he said.

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

“It’s always been our goal.”

State now has 28 clubs

Football game for players with intellectual disabilities.  Team wear blue red and white jerseys.
The Phillip Island Football Netball Club hosted an inclusive football bowl-and-try day in May.Delivered: Beau Vernon

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

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

Victorian FIDA president Peter Ryan said he was eager for the match to arrive in the region.

“Growing up and playing footy myself, almost every club I played at had someone with a marked intellectual disability who would have loved to put on a jersey and play a game but never got the chance,” he said.

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