2024 has been a big year for Annmarie de Uriarte. The Avalon W16 player received her first callup to the ParaMatildas (Australia’s national team for women with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury and symptoms of stroke), and she was a key member of the team that won the IFCPF Asia-Oceania Championships.
Annmarie had always participated in mainstream sport, but when she heard about the ParaMatildas via the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, she was eager to take up the opportunity.
“A couple of years ago, I realised if I wanted to take my football to the next level, I would have to look into para sports. I wouldn’t say I hid my disability, but I wasn’t open about it either. I just wanted to keep playing football and I found this amazing community where everyone is so supportive. I’m very grateful everything worked out the way it did.”
After participating in training camps at the Australian Institute of Sport, Annmarie was selected for September’s tour of Japan, where she made her ParaMatildas debut and scored her first goal for the national team. She was appreciative of the support provided while they were overseas.
“Going up to Japan, I will admit I was a bit nervous. Getting my kit and representing Australia, I’ll always remember that.
“We had a whole team of staff there to support us. Being a younger member of the squad, everyone would check in on me, that was nice and comforting.”
Annmarie kept her place in the squad for the IFCPF Asia-Oceania Championships, which were held at The Home of The Matildas (La Trobe University, Melbourne). The team’s intense pre-tournament preparations paid off as the ParaMatildas beat Japan 2-0 to earn their first trophy. Annmarie scored twice during the tournament and set up a goal in the Final.
“We had a week of camp beforehand, with training, media, game analysis and other events. Our games were televised, so more people were watching, that was pretty cool. Being on home soil was awesome.
“I started in the final, that meant a lot to me. I had a hard time finding the back of the net, but coming away with the victory, you can’t beat that, and it was a great celebration.”
She’s still very young, but Annmarie has already thought about the bigger picture in terms of how she can help both the national team and para sports in general.
“The Pararoos have been around for 25 years, they have more of a history and competition is strong. I would really like to see the ParaMatildas grow into something like that, I would love to be a part of the growth and getting more countries involved.
“Down the line I’d like to get more involved with inclusion and the visibility of para sports, creating pathways for others with disabilities is really important.”
Feature image courtesy Ann Odong / Football Australia.