FRISCO — Callum Montgomery didn’t realize how difficult it was until he tried it himself.
The center back, along with the rest of his teammates, played host to the US Amputee Soccer Team on Friday. The US had its practice at the FC Dallas training ground, and after the team was finished, the players got to scrimmage with FCD.
It started as a normal mini-scrimmage — both squads were split up evenly on either side. After the first few minutes, both sets of players were smiling and laughing with each other. But, there was a twist.
US Amputee Head Coach Eric Lambert walked on to the pitch with four sets of crutches, giving one to different FC Dallas players — Montgomery being one of them. It didn’t take long for them to realize how hard it truly was to play soccer on crutches.
“It’s extremely difficult,” Montgomery said. “You don’t feel very mobile on those things, and watching them fly around — it’s impressive what they can do on those crutches.”
Calabria works on movement and speed during training on Sienna Field 7 at Toyota Soccer Center.
Different players tripped and fell, and the amputees raced past the FC Dallas players who were on the crutches. It was an eye-opening experience for Dominque Badji, who had a big smile when talking about meeting the amputees. He said getting to meet all of the guys was awesome, and it's something he will never forget.
“You can see how they’re all smiling,” Badji said. “Sometimes, we kind of take this so seriously. It’s nice to see people just out here having fun. It’s awesome to see them play, and it really brings a huge smile to my face.”
US Amputee Captain Nicolai Calabria was born without one leg and has been playing soccer since he was a little kid. He had always played in a league with able bodies, but he decided to join the US Amputee team when it came asking. Since he never played soccer with other people who were disabled, he didn’t know what to expect.
After playing in World Cups throughout the years, Calabria has been able to meet people with the same and different disabilities as him. He said it’s been an awesome experience so far, and he was glad to share another one with the FC Dallas players.
“Hanging out with people with disabilities is something I didn’t do growing up,” Calabria said. “I always had a disability, but I didn’t necessarily hang out with other disabled folks. Since doing that, it’s been super interesting sharing experiences with people who have challenges.”
This was the second year the amputee team held a training camp at the FC Dallas facility. Veterans like Ryan Hollingshead had the chance to meet the team last year, but for new signings and draft picks, like John Nelson, it was something they had never experienced before.
“It’s real cool to see," Nelson said. "Walking out here at the beginning of training, we see them training real hard. We know that’s a warrior mentality for them. They’re not making excuses. I think it’s very inspiring.”
The amputees had the chance to take some pointers from professional soccer players Friday afternoon, but by the end of the training session, it was FC Dallas which took away the biggest lessons.
“We learn from everybody,” FC Dallas Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez said. “It was great that they had an experience with us on our field to play side-by-side with our guys, and we value the same — to do the same with them. It’s just a moment that they can identify with the sacrifice and hard work it takes to play with crutches.”
Even though the makeup of the two teams is physically different, it doesn’t take away from the one thing that every player has in common — the love for soccer.
“It’s the beautiful game,” Calabria said. “Soccer is for all. It’s been an incredible experience. I’ve been able to travel all over the world with people with different cultures, who don’t speak the same language — that don’t have the same ability. Missing legs, not missing legs, you know, we all just share the love of the game, and it’s definitely been one huge theme of my life.”