Soccer heartache Marc banned from his footy team
His soccer team fights back as Marc is forced to take the bench
There is nothing more fun than participating in a team sport with your mates. And for the past two years, soccer-obsessed Marc Reichler-Stillhard, who has Down syndrome, enjoyed playing for Yamba’s under-14s team as an extra player with the agreement of the entire competition.
Marc’s teammates love and accept the 16-year-old for who he is. They know when he’s on the field, he enjoys the experience of being with his mates – running around in the background and enjoying the odd kick and dribble.
“Marc has a heart as big as Phar Lap’s – he’s always positive and brings joy to his teammates,” says his coach Rod Menzies. However, after a complaint was lodged by a parent of a rival team to the NSW’S North Coast Football, they have ruled the team must only field 11 players.
“Marc is shattered – sport is his life,” says Marc’s mum Enid. “He knows if the ruling sticks his playing days are either over or will be very limited.” The decision by North Coast Football sparked an outpouring of discontent on social media and in the community. While not a fulltime player, he has a big impact with the mateship and love he brings to the team. “They love him, they high five him and want him there,” says Enid. Marc’s life has been one long challenge from when he was born prematurely at 31 weeks and required immediate open-heart surgery. Then there’s the intellectual disability, which comes with Down syndrome, but it doesn’t stop him from enjoying life and wanting to be part of a team.
Marc’s future playing soccer may be in jeopardy, but his school, Mcauley Catholic College in Grafton, celebrates him for what he is. Marc is currently in Year 10, and the school has asked him to return for his senior years.
“They love him for what he brings to the education of the other kids,” says Enid. “The college has made allowances to integrate him into their activities, such as playing in the band. If the school can achieve these things, why can’t sport do likewise?”
The youngster is seen as a valued team member.
Marc with his parents Urs and Enid, and brother Alex (right).