As a community orientated club SK Rapid Vienna looks to afford all players, including those with various impairments (be it seeing or hearing difficulties; mental or physical disabilities), the chance to participate in their favourite sport. With this target in mind the SK Rapid Special Needs Team was founded in 2014.
The SK Rapid Special Needs Team is comprised of approximately sixteen players between the ages of sixteen and thirty-five, who all have forms of mental or physical disabilities. The acuteness of the disabilities vary, but in order to take part being able participate in the sport itself is necessary. “The sporting ability isn’t a top priority regarding team selection. Identifying with the club SK Rapid and with the team are the more important selection criteria”, explains Manager Peter Grechtshammer: “extremely important was and is of course the behaviour of each individual within the group, as well as fair play and team spirit. In the SK Rapid Special Needs Team we also place lots of importance on discipline: at the end of the day you are still representing the most successful football club in Austria!”
The project is long term and based upon a model of sustainability. For a few months now the team has been taking part in domestic competitions and international tournaments, where they have been competing against other teams of disabled players from different countries. The first steps were taken through competing in a tournament in Switzerland under the patronage of the Football is More (FiM) Foundation, to which our club belongs. The CEO of SK Rapid Enterprise, Werner Kuhn, made the initial contact with the Foundation’s responsible figures and landed Rapid a leading role in the project. Other big supporters of the Special Needs Team include President Michael Krammer and CEO Christoph Peschek.
In order to continue to help with the future development of the Team’s players, ideas of inclusivity and inclusion are held in high regard: through both the training sessions at the then Gerhard Hanappi Stadium and participation in competitions, sport will be used to bring together the Special Needs Team and our youth teams. Joint training sessions have already been taking place, bringing our young actors more experiences in sport, life and in every sense imaginable. Equally beneficial are our partnerships with the Friends of Sport Purkersdorf and the platform “mehralsfussball.at” (morethanfootball), with whom we have already jointly put on a successful tournament.
Away from the tournaments the SK Rapid Special Needs Team comes under the watchful eyes of Youth Trainer Jürgen Kerber (Youth Academy U-14), Matias Costa and Dominik Formann (ex-Rapid youth and academy player) once a week. Open training sessions have also taken place, involving other interested players with disabilities who want to show what they can do on the pitch. If you fit the profile and would like to take part then get in touch through firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
Trainer Jürgen Kerber: “it is completely irrelevant which disabilities the players have. The most important things that you need to bring with you are team spirit, the love of football and the ability to participate. I’d like to extend a heartfelt invitation to all football fans out there with disabilities to come down and join in.”