On a busy weekend in Freetown, Sierra Leone, dozens of individuals collect to observe a day soccer match, like many others you’d discover anyplace else on this planet. However there may be one stunning distinction: these gamers are all amputees.
They’re members of Sports activities Affiliation of One Leg Amputees (SLASA), a corporation co-founded by Pastor Mambud Samai in 2001 after he returned residence in direction of the tip of Sierra Leone’s lethal civil battle, which lasted from 1991 to 2002 and killed no less than 50,000 folks all through the nation. Hundreds extra have been left with misplaced limbs throughout a brutal marketing campaign to terrorize the civilian inhabitants.
After encountering a refugee camp stuffed with a whole lot of amputees, Samai felt compelled to assist. “At the moment, there have been no actions like trauma restoration for them. So amputees believed that after they misplaced their limbs and legs, they haven’t any future, no likelihood. So, I volunteered to offer them confidence,” he stated.
Whereas within the refugee camp, he met an American missionary who launched him to a type of adaptive soccer. After exhibiting the amputees how one can play, the response was overwhelming and SLASA was shaped, “to offer hope to amputees, to offer confidence to amputees and allow them to turn out to be ambassadors of peace,” Samai stated.
Based on the World Amputee Soccer Federation, gamers are usually not allowed to make use of prosthetics and as an alternative can cross the sector on crutches. Every group has seven gamers on the sector on the identical time, with the sector gamers just one leg and the goalkeepers just one arm.
A number of SLASA gamers have since gone on to compete worldwide applications together with the World Amputee Soccer Championship, the African Cup of Amputee Nations and the European Open Soccer Championship for Amputees.
“Most of them are actually very proud to have the ability to symbolize their nation in worldwide competitions,” Samai stated. “They’re contributing one thing to society.”
Samai says the game just isn’t solely an excellent type of train, however brings gamers collectively and serves as “remedy” for battle victims to cope with their shared trauma. “We attempt to give them hope after which give them the credibility that they’re helpful, that they’re necessary to society,” he stated.
Ali Badara Kamara is a SLASA league goalkeeper. He says he’s grateful for the alternatives which have modified his life. “My mom was afraid that I might play soccer as a result of she sees me as an amputee. She thought that if I fell on the bottom, I might have one other drawback,” he says. “However SLASA took me to Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania.”
Kamara is one among them greater than 80 million folks with disabilities dwelling throughout the continent. Based on the United Nations, that determine consists of these with psychological well being issues, start defects and different bodily disabilities. With assistive gadgets typically unavailable or unaffordable, many discover employment exhausting to seek out and find yourself begging on the streets.
Though soccer matches solely final 90 minutes, Samai’s newest mission is to discover a method to assist amputees past the pitch.
“My ardour (is) ensuring that each life, no matter their incapacity or background, is ready to be completely happy and have the ability to smile on the finish of the day,” Samai stated.
To attain this, SLASA works carefully with the Sierra Leone Nationwide Rehabilitation Middle and companions with worldwide organizations reminiscent of SwissLimbs present prostheses to amputees and practice native technicians.
In 2018, Samai traveled to Japan to review sustainable agriculture management and neighborhood growth. Upon his return, he started providing sustainable agriculture courses by SLASA.
SLASA additionally assesses members’ schooling and offers studying assets to these in want. Their aim is to get extra amputees off the streets and supply them with a secure strategy to make a dwelling for themselves and their households.
Up to now, Samai says SLASA has instantly helped 350 amputees and hopes to extend that quantity. The last word aim is to construct a regulation subject and rehabilitation heart of its personal.
“We would like Sierra Leone to compete with different nations by way of growth,” Samai stated. “We imagine that folks with disabilities shouldn’t be left behind.”