‘I couldn’t stop smiling’: How Pararoo Cosimo Cirillo overcame odds

Cosimo Cirillo has learnt through football that there’s nothing he can’t achieve.

Heading into his sixth National CP Football Championships this week, Cirillo has grown as a footballer through the competition over the years, and already has seven caps with the Pararoos to show for it.

“I played my first tournament in Denmark, I was 15 at the time,” Cirillo said.

“My debut was very special, I’m very passionate about football and when I got subbed on, I couldn’t stop smiling.

A huge week of CP (cerebral palsy) football has begun. Click here to learn more about the 2019 National CP Football Championships.

“Representing your country is proving doubters wrong I think, in a cheesy way but it’s true.

“All the challenges you face with a disability, football and life itself, you move past that.

“You feel like you’ve accomplished something and beaten the odds.”

Since his first appearance in the National Championships, Cirillo has played a variety of positions, including central midfield, central defence and even goalkeeper after breaking his foot in 2017.

As he prepares for his sixth Nationals campaign, he looks back on his past experiences in the competition as a time he developed as footballer, and as a person.

“I started as a 13-year-old,” Cirillo said.

“In Mildura there aren’t many people like me with my disability.

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“My first Nationals was a real eye opener because I’d never seen people with my disability, that was the first time.

“I didn’t really know a community like this existed.

“After each Nationals I’ve gained more and more confidence, it’s taught me to take on people and not shy away from using body contact.

“At Nationals it’s all about getting a fair go, trying your best and that means a lot to me.”

As Cirillo heads into the 2019 tournament as an 18-year-old, he now feels a responsibility to help guide the younger players through the same experiences he has undergone over the past six years.

“When I was younger, I was very emotional, going into a tournament like this meant a lot to me,” he said.

READ: Everything you need to know about the 2019 National CP Football Championships

Full fixture list for the 2019 National CP Football Championships

“You really bond with your teammates and learn different things you wouldn’t learn in able-bodied football, and you have to teach (the young players) a few things they don’t already know and take them under your wing.

“You say to them ‘I’ve been through this, I know how you’re feeling’.”

To win the tournament would mean more than anything to Cirillo and a Victorian side which has never won the competition in its 15-year history.

“The training sessions we have done and all the work we’ve put in behind the scenes has really shown in our sessions and hopefully we can replicate that at Nationals,” Cirillo said.

“I think a lot of people have gone through my experience transitioning from able-bodied football where they may not have gotten a fair go to this tournament where you have a lot more playing time.

“They’ve got more of a connection to the trophy, it means a lot more to them and me personally to win it.

“To win it would feel like a real accomplishment.”

The Pararoos competed at the 2019 IFCPF World Cup, Spain, in July

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