Daniel Cunningham might struggle to find the right words as to why he loves playing power chair soccer.
What he doesn’t struggle with is playing the game that he loves.He recently represented the Okanagan as its only player on Team Canada, which travelled to Paris, France for the World Cup held Nov. 2 to 6.
“It was nice to play against those top level players and with top level players,” said Cunningham. “It’s a lot of fun, the competition is great.”
Cunningham described the talent as “crazy”, as his eyes opened wide to how good players in the sport can be. Being exposed to that drives Cunningham to push himself.
“I learned a lot,” he said.
Canada finished sixth in its debut of the Federation International Power Football Association World Cup ahead of Australia, Portugal, Ireland and Switzerland. The United States defeated England 3-0 in the championship game, while France defeated Belgium for bronze. Japan was fifth.
Canada’s coach Gordon Marks said they would have liked better results, but admitted that competition was pretty stiff.
“I think we had done well,” he said.
Marks was pleased with how Cunningham played considering he had major back surgery in the summer. While the surgery did help Cunningham sit better in his chair, his neck mobility was compromised. The surgery also held Cunningham back from being able to train more with his Canadian teammates, said Marks.
While Cunningham was chosen to be one of the goalies, he didn’t see any time as the backup. Instead, his playing time came as a forward in a few games.
“In those first two games we didn’t dominate,” said Marks, as they defeated Ireland 3-0 and Australia 1-0. “We were kind of struggling. Games we won, they were tight games.”
Canada lost to France, the reigning world champion, and lost to Belgium, who is part of French league. Since Canada was not dominant in its World Cup debut, Marks said among the things that need to be looked at are custom game chairs and their playing strategies.
“All the players were glad to be part of it,” said Marks. “I think they were hoping to be fourth or fifth. Losing the fifth place game was disappointing to everybody.”
Having arrived four days before the World Cup started gave Canada the chance to get in extra training. They also had scrimmage games against the United States and Australia. Marks said that was good to give the players exposure they hadn’t had before.
Cunningham, who also got a chance to see the sights of Paris with his family, wants to experience the World Cup stage again.
“I’m going to work to do it again,” said Cunningham, who feels he improved.