‘Just not right’ – FAI fails to support transplant football team

John Brennan, national transplant soccer team coach. Photo: Frank McGrath

Dawn O'Shea

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has refused to support the national transplant football team, saying it is already backing too many teams.

The decision means the team will not wear the official Ireland jersey at an international transplant soccer tournament later this week and the players will not be capped.

Team coach, John Brennan, who is a heart transplant recipient, said the decision “is just not right”.

“You see all the other teams with [challenges], like the amputee team and the homeless team, who are representing Ireland and they have all the kit, and then there’s us,” he said.

The team has fundraised €3,000, which will be used to purchase an unofficial kit, and the players will cover their own flights, accommodation and registration costs when they travel to Birmingham on March 25 to play in the international transplant soccer games. The cost per player will be approximately €400.

The team applied for FAI recognition under the Football for All programme, which was set up to support players with various disabilities.

The application asked for the use of the official jersey on match days, coaching support when needed, the use of the FAI’s facilities and expertise, and to be officially capped when they represent their country at international fixtures. However, in an email seen by the Irish Independent, the organisation said: “Unfortunately the answer on this occasion is that we will not be able to support the squad with jerseys. I’m sure this will come as a disappointment to you but the current workload on the Football for All section within the FAI leaves us unable to support an additional international squad.”

The FAI is affiliated with a number of other groups including Amputee Football, Homeless Street Leagues/Homeless World Cup and Special Olympics.

Double-lung transplant recipient and team founder, Lar Brennan, said the decision was “disappointing”.

“I look at the team and all the individual stories of survival of lads with a week left to live, and all the organs and all the people who have passed away through probably tragic circumstance, and their gift of life to all these lads who are running around and having a laugh together,” he said.

In a statement, an FAI spokesperson said: “As the Irish transplant team are not affiliated to the FAI, they are outside our remit at this point in time. We wish them the very best of luck at their upcoming tournament.”