Iljas Visker (@iljasvisker on Twitter and @iljasvisker on Instagram) is a 24-year-old international for the Netherlands CP Football team and after he recently became a valued customer of Pro Soccer Shin Pads, we were delighted to chat to him and find out more about him and the game.
CP Football is football for athletes with cerebral palsy, or a traumatic brain injury and gives players the opportunity to play at club, national and international level. Indeed, as one of the top players for the Netherlands, Iljas has scored goals at the 2012 Paralympics, the 2014 European Championships and the 2015 World Championships, and will take part in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.
Played in a 7-a-side format, the fast-paced nature of CP Football makes it an entertaining spectator sport with plenty of goals. Read on for our interview with Iljas, where he explains more about the differences between CP Football and the 11-a-side game!
Hi Iljas! How did you get started playing football and how did you get introduced to CP Football?
I started playing football when I was 5 years old, I played for a few different teams and was talented. Then, when I was 16 years old I had a stroke and the right side of my body was affected badly. Even normal walking was not possible. After almost 2 years of hard work I got in contact with the KNVB and they told me about CP football. I did a trial, and after that I fell in love with the 7-a-side game and haven’t left it since!
How does 7-a-side CP Football differ from the 11-a-side game? (apart from the number of players!)
We play on a slightly smaller pitch with smaller goals. Players can throw and roll the ball in and there is no offside. There is also a classification system. The sport is made up of class 5, class 6 , class7 and class 8 players. During a game, teams need to play with at least one Class 5 or 6 player, and a maximum of 1 class 8 player.
[See here for information on the rules of CP Football – http://www.ifcpf.com/rules)]
You have scored important goals for Netherlands at the 2012 Paralympics, the 2014 European Championships and the 2015 World Championships. How does it feel to score goals for your country?
Scoring for my country is the best feeling in the world. It’s a big honour! When I hit the back of the net in a important match I’m very proud that I can do this for my team and my nation!
Netherlands qualified for the 2016 Paralympics having been runner-up of 2014 European Championships and ranked in the top 8 at the 2015 World Championships. Do you think you can win gold in Rio?
To win the gold is never easy in a sport on the level we play at. At the moment Russia, Ukraine and Brazil are the number 1,2 and 3 ranked teams in the world, and we are number 4 in the world. If we keep improving over the next few months like we have in the last 4 years anything is possible. We’re training hard everyday to become the best that we can be! I strongly believe we’ll leave Rio with a medal!
What are your future goals in CP Football?
My future goal in CP football is winning a medal in Rio 2016.
Do you aim to inspire others with cerebral palsy to take up CP Football?
I want to inspire not just those with cerebral palsy. I would like to be a inspiration for every kid with a disability. Everything is possible, and I would like to show that!
What advice would you give to young players who also dream of representing their country?
Give your all for the game you love. After my stroke I had a hard time, not for the fact that my body didn’t work for 100%, but the fact that I could not play football, that was the hardest part. I was able to reach this level by giving my all for the game I loved and still love!
Can you explain how you picked the design for your shin pads?
The design was easy for me. I’m half Dutch, half Moluccan, that’s why I chose one with the Dutch flag and my father’s name. The other one has the Moluccan flag and my mother’s name. 11 is my jersey number.
Anyone thinking of purchasing their own personalised shin pads may find it helpful to see how Iljas provided his design to us. We’re happy to accept a rough sketch of your idea, and we’ll do the rest! Here’s how Iljas’s idea turned into his own personalised shin pads –