Georgia Beikoff: ‘We can break down barriers - there just needs to be an opportunity’

It was a moment that Georgia Beikoff hadn’t imagined would come. 

In October 2019 Beikoff joined seventeen footballers aged between 13 and 45 in the 2019 Asia-Oceania Regional Female Cerebral Palsy Football Camp at Valentine Sports Park. 

Over five days, the Paralympian was put through training sessions, strength and conditioning workshops, and game day analysis. 

Even for an athlete who had participated and succeeded at the London 2012 Paralympics, it was a dream come true. 

“I heard that they [the FFA] were starting a CP women’s training program and I was hands down, sign me up,” she beamed. 

“Football has always been my first love, so I am just super excited that it’s happening.” 

CP Women's Camp
CP Women's Training Camp participants at Valentine Sports Park (Photo: Kenny Bowers / FFA)

The training camp at Valentine Sports Park was in many ways a return home for the 26 year old. 

After playing football from kindergarten to her early teens, Beikoff left the game to chase Olympic dreams after being identified at the Australian Paralympic Talent Search Day.

A couple of years later, the teen returned from the London Paralympics a bronze medallist in women's F37/38 javelin throw. 

“On paper I was fifth or sixth but ended up coming home with a bronze medal which was just insane.”

“It was a massive surprise - I was not expecting it at all!”

While the bronze medal is a cherished memory, Beikoff is a footballer at heart.  However, only in recent years has Beikoff been able to seriously dream about playing for Australia in the sport she loves. 

“When I was little, I used to go around saying to people that if there was ever a Paralympic football team for girls, I would do that for the rest of my life.  It’s so exciting it is now potentially happening 20 years later.”

“I think it’s great to have this CP program.  I think there is a little bit of a stigma on disability, especially regarding with people with Cerebral Palsy.”

“Because of a lack of understanding of what CP is, a lot of people think that it’s very much people who ‘can’t’.  There is a lack of understanding of what we can actually do.” 

The CP Women’s program joins the successful Pararoos program in striving to make football accessible to footballers of all abilities.  

At their weekend strike out against Canada in Cromer Park, the Pararoos demonstrated just what can be achieved by creating a space that ensures people from all backgrounds can enjoy the beautiful game. 

Pararoos match
Pararoos hosted Canada in an international friendly on Saturday

For Beikoff, the Pararoos and the girls and women she met at October’s training camp have an important role to play in breaking down barriers and stereotypes around disability. 

“I think in the past when you tell someone you have a disability; I feel like they would take a step back and they start viewing you in a particular way,” she said. 

“That’s changing because we have exposure - the Pararoos have exposure. People are now more open to finding out who you are as a person and not letting your disability define you.”

“It’s amazing now that we have a development program and meeting so many other girls with the same passion, it’s amazing what you can do when you are united.”

“Because of my past experience, I want to take on a bit of a role model - a leadership role which is really exciting.”

Today is International Day of People with Disability, and the 2019 theme of accessibility is one that resonates deeply with Georgia Beikoff. 

For the rest of the game, it is a prompt reminder to football that opening up the largest game in the world and improving access and inclusion can change lives. 

“I grew up in a household where the word ‘can’t’ did not exist.  I always had to try and do something even if I found it really, really hard.” 

“We can do things; we can break down barriers.  There just needs to be an opportunity.”

“When I went into the Paralympic program, it was the first time I met a lot of people exactly like me.” 

“It was the first time I felt like I was at home. I want that now for girls who play football.”

CP Womens and Matildas
CP Women's program players and the Matildas

Looking to the future, Beikoff is upbeat about the possibilities for the CP Women’s program, for women’s football and the potential of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ in Australia. 

“It would be amazing,” she exclaimed.  “I was seven when the Sydney Paralympics happened and I remember watching Kurt Fearnley and Louise Savage, those were the people I looked up to being Paralympians.” 

“I think a home Women’s World Cup would just be incredible to spark the imagination of other young girls who are watching to aim to achieve in the future.” 

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