Soc­cer heartache Marc banned from his footy team

His soc­cer team fights back as Marc is forced to take the bench

Woman’s Day (Australia) - - Contents -

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).

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