Kaylan van Heer's journey from fan to CommBank Pararoo

Saturday, 30 November 2019 was a special day in CommBank Pararoos history. For the first time in 19 years, the team played a game on home soil. 

1200 fans packed into Cromer Park in Sydney to see the Australian national team for men with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury and symptoms of stroke defeat World No12 Canada 5-0.

One of the fans in the crowd was 13-year-old Kaylan Van Heer, who had flown to Sydney from Victoria to watch his heroes in person. Three-and-a-half years later, in February 2023, he debuted against the USA at the very same venue that he attended in 2019.

“That was a very special memory for me,” he explained. “Because all that hard work that I’ve put in, even for Mum and Dad as well.

“That’s probably my proudest moment, just walking out in the green and gold. There’s no prouder moment in my life.”

A 13-year-old Kaylan Van Heer (left) holds up a Pararoos scarf in the stands of Cromer Park, Sydney during Pararoos v Canada. A second person alongside him also holds up a scarf.
13-year-old Kaylan van Heer (L) at Cromer Park to watch the Pararoos v Canada in 2019.

At only 17 years of age, Van Heer is the youngest player in the CommBank Pararoos squad for the IFCPF Asia-Oceania Championships. A Victorian – he began his career at Point Cook Jets, and now plays for Williams Landing FC – he says it will be incredibly special to step out in the green and gold in front of friends and family.

“They always ask me how does it feel to play for Australia, and now they get to watch me,” he said. “All my friends, my family, they’re all coming on Saturday to the opening game so I’m pretty excited.

“I can show my friends and family what I can do on the pitch, not just off the pitch.”

Kaylan van Heer is kissed by a family member after making his Pararoos debut against USA, in February 2023.

Whenever he plays, the youngster shows not just his friends and family what he can do, but young Australians with a disability as well. He has a clear message to his younger self, as well as to those who may be tuning into the CommBank Pararoos and CommBank ParaMatildas for the first time during the Asian Oceania Championships.

“I’d say [to myself] just to be proud of my disability because when I was younger, I didn’t embrace it as much as I do now, and I’m thankful for it now,” he said.

“For anyone – not just my younger self, anyone with a disability – just embrace it. Because it’s not as bad as everyone thinks it is.

“For me, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’d rather be how I am. I’m proud to have a disability.”

The forward – who can play anywhere up top in both eleven-a-side and seven-a-side – cites Cristiano Ronaldo as his idol for his style of play.

“I like to score goals,” he laughed, when asked about the kind of player that he is. “I like to get on the ball and take on players. So, make things happen if nothing’s happening.”

A photo of the Pararoos starting lineup before the game against USA in February 2023. Kaylan van Heer is bottom right.

Van Heer is just the latest in a large crop of youngsters at coach Kai Lammert’s disposal. They are able to play a style of football that is adventurous and possession-based, and many observers note the enormous potential on the pitch in this side.

For the teenager, though, he’s just enjoying the ride.

“Me and the boys, we like to joke around and have fun,” he laughed. “We have fun. Sometimes I have too much fun.

“But yeah, it’s good. I enjoy being the youngest actually. Nothing to worry about.”

And if the Victorian scores a goal in front of his home crowd?

“If anyone comes to watch the Asia Oceania Championships and I score, just be ready. I’ve got some celebrations.”

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2023 IFCPF Asia-Oceania Championships

Match Day 1 
Australia v Thailand
Date: Saturday, 4 November 2023 
Venue: Home of the Matildas (Field 1) 
Kick-Off: 5.15pm AEDT 
Broadcast: SBS On Demand
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Match Day 2 
Australia v Iran 
Date: Sunday, 5 November 2023 
Venue: Home of the Matildas (Field 1) 
Kick-Off: 3.30pm AEDT 
Broadcast: SBS On Demand
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Match Day 3 
Australia v Japan 
Date: Wednesday, 8 November 2023 
Venue: Home of the Matildas (Field 1) 
Kick-Off: 6.45pm AEDT 
Broadcast: SBS On Demand
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Match Day 4 
India v Australia
Date: Thursday, 9 November 2023 
Venue: Home of the Matildas (Field 1) 
Kick-Off: 5pm AEDT 
Broadcast: SBS On Demand
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