A partially blind 12-year-old has launched a brave campaign to save the Pararoos after the elite disabled football team was stripped of its entire funding.
Claire Falls, a lifetime soccer player, penned a heartfelt letter in the hope of having Commonwealth support reinstated.
The Canberra youngster also started an online petition urging people to pledge one dollar to the cause.
Her Eyes of a Dreamer site has touched a chord with the football family and the wider Australian public who have jumped on board her inspirational campaign.
But football and government organisations have been slow to respond.
Claire wrote: “When I read about the Pararoos funding being cut off completely, I couldn’t help but be angry and sad and disappointed.”
She added: “If the Football Federation and the Australian Sports Commission are taking away the money for our county’s only Paralympics football team that allows athletes with a disability to play, what hope is there for us kids?
“What do we have to aim for? What happens to our heroes? How is that promoting encouragement, respect or inclusion?”
Australia’s Winning Edge policy focuses on funding sports most likely to earn medals. The Australian Sports Commission deemed the 10th ranked Pararoos not worthy enough.
“It makes me feel angry to think that football should ever be about winning medals or to read that funding was cut off because of the Pararoos ranking,” Claire wrote.
“The Socceroos world ranking is at 62nd the Matildas are 9th, are they going to have their funding axed too? Of course they aren’t – there would be a huge outcry!
“Since when is sport meant to be about how many medals a team wins? What would happen if every Mum or Dad said to their kid ‘I’m not going to pay your football fees unless you win’?”
Claire sent her letter to the FFA, the Australian Sports Commission, Human Rights Commission, Minister for Sport Peter Dutton, and Shadow Minister of Sport Bernie Ripoll and many others.
And the young footballer has put out the challenge: “My question and challenge for you is, if I can get 175,000 supporters to pledge and provide $1 each, will you match it dollar for dollar?”
The Paralympic team enables players with brain injuries and Cerebral Palsy to compete, and although Claire cannot play for the squad, she is still determined to right the wrong.
To date her letter has received just one reply – a Twitter response from the Australian Sports Commission with a link explaining what is happening.
“Now that I have had time to adjust to my low vision, it is not so bad but I still have to work 10 times as hard as my new teammates to get the same results,” she wrote.
“For me, there is no other option in football that suits my needs other than to play in a mainstream league. But the thing is there are some kids out there that have much bigger limitations than me.”
Pararoos Head Coach Paul Brown also spoke out about the axed funding.
Since signing on in 2006, Brown has steered the team to notable success.
The team has won numerous silver medals and at one point were ranked third in the world.
“It’s taken me coming out and voicing my opinions on the issue to get it into the public forum and it’s basically gone viral with social media,” Brown said.
“I’m not usually the sort of person who makes waves, but this is just pure discrimination.”
The funding will be sorely missed for the next Paralympics, where it was just assumed Australia would not qualify even with their high-ranking.
Now, the team’s very existence is at risk.
“I’ve put my job in jeopardy going public with this, but I’ve been coaching a long time, and sometime things are just unfair and you need to speak up” Brown added.
You can head over to http://442ne.ws/pararoos to sign the petition and see Claire’s letter at https://twitter.com/eyesofadream .