There are two more World-Cup caliber soccer players in the region.
About six months after Hanson native Samantha Mewis and the U.S. Women’s Soccer team won the World Cup, 24-year-old twins Andrew and Troy Chauppetta have been named to the U.S. Powerchair Soccer Team’s 12-player roster — and could be competing for their country at the sport’s World Cup in Australia next year. The Fédération Internationale de Powerchair Football Association, (FIPFA) headquartered in Paris, is the international governing body of the sport, and runs the World Cup program.
The young men have been battling Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy since they were children when playing soccer was a favorite sport.
“We’re training to go to Australia,” Andrew said during an interview at Brack’s Grille & Tap in Brockton, where a burger on the menu benefits the family’s Wheelchair Strong nonprofit charity. The Twins also run their own T-shirt business, at twinteeshirts.com.
“Teams from all over the world will be competing for the gold medal,” Andrew said.
They have been playing power chair soccer for about 10 years now, and went to a tryout in Minnesota where 24 players competed for the 12 spots on the team.
“Three weeks after that, the coach called us and selected us to be part of the 12-man roster,” Andrew said.
Troy explained eight players will ultimately be selected to travel to the World Cup tournament, with four serving as alternates in case of injury or other reason why a player can’t go.
In the meantime, in addition to settling into their first independent housing in Bridgewater, the twins will be participating in 10 training camps followed by selection of the eight players who will travel to Australia.
“They made Team USA at our national tournament in June,” said their dad Mark Chauppetta, a WHRHS grad. “There’s hundreds of wheelchair soccer players that play in Indiana [and] Troy and Andrew had a basic tryout there.”
While a proud achievement, selection to Team USA also brings a big financial commitment, Chauppetta said, including the cost of travel to training camps all around the country. The estimated cost is about $25,000 per player. A personal care attendant must also travel with the family to help Chauppetta, which adds to the expenses.
They just returned from Tampa, Fla., and will be headed to Indianapolis, Ind., in April and San Antonio in July.
The family has set up a GoFundMe tab on their website wheelchairstrong.com and are looking for corporate sponsorships. Wheelchair Strong’s 501 (c) 3 status means tax deductions can accompany donations.
“Troy and Andrew are willing to put the logo any local business has straight across their foreheads, if the price is good enough,” Chuppetta joked.
The national team’s coach was scouting at the Indiana tournament and invited them to an October selection camp in Minnesota where the team was narrowed to 12.
“Like the coach said, ‘How could I pick one and not pick the other?’” Chauppetta said of both his sons being selected for the team. “They play very similar styles.”
The coach has Andrew playing forward right now to give him more roster options, but his natural position is as goalie. Troy, who currently leads their home league in goals scored, is a forward. They play for the Pappas Chariots, based out of Canton.
“We have to practice more than one position,” Andrew said of the national team.
“We’ve been playing power soccer for about 10 years,” Troy said. “We travel all over the country playing in tournaments every couple of months.”
Troy said the sport is an important part of their lives.
“The best part of being able to play power soccer is being able to get that competitive edge back that we used to have as little kids when we were able to run around and play sports in the yard,” he said. “Finding this sport has really changed our life, just from the sports perspective.”
Their father said the Chariots, which used to be affiliated with the Mass. Hospital School, since they lost ambulation at age 12.
Andrew said it was an emotional experience to lose the ability to play ambulatory sports.
“Being extremely athletic kids, and being very rambunctious kids, I was sort of bummed out that there weren’t any sports they could play anymore when they went into wheelchairs,” he said.
A friend in the Muscular Dystrophy community suggested wheelchair soccer. The twins were all for it and fell in love with the sport, which has evolved a great deal in the ensuing years.
“Back then, they were using their personal wheelchairs and putting a crate on the front to hit a [13-inch in diameter] soccer ball,” Chauppetta said. “The athletes were running into a lot of problems with their chairs getting damaged and insurance not covering it.”
The Power Soccer Shop — a Minnesota company — invented the Strike Force Chair now required for use by every player who wants to play at the elite level. The chairs cost more than $10,000 each.
The twins took out loans through Santander Bank on their own to purchase their chairs.
“I guess you could say they went from Little League baseball to the Major Leagues,” Chauppetta said. “Troy and Andrew are the only two players [on Team USA] from New England.”
Travel with the chairs is stressful, Chauppetta said, but as they travel more, they become used to how to instruct flight crews how to handle the chairs to prevent damage — and they film the loading process on their phones for insurance purposes.
They had always wanted to play either with or against a particular player they admired and, as they went through the process of advancing in the sport, they decided Team USA would be their eventual goal.
The sport takes more mental preparation and getting accustomed to the chairs banging into each other than physical conditioning, Chauppetta said.
“I think the club team prepared them,” he said.