The Palestine Football Federation is offering amputees from Gaza a chance at playing football (or, soccer) again.
The football association in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross is training the players who are ages 18 and up. General Secretary of the European Amputee Football Federation (EAFF) Simon Baker is serving as coach. Many of the players lost their limbs during ongoing military conflicts in the region.
“At first the players in Gaza were worried that everyone looked at them as simply disabled,” Baker told the Independent. “We want people to see the sport being played and the players first, not the disability of the person.”
Baker, a former construction worker, lost his leg in 2004 during a fall on the job. The amputation led to suicidal ideation, but after eight operations he decided to become a footballer.
The coach doesn’t go easy on his players. The footballers have a rigorous training schedule and that’s pretty clear from looking at a game.
Footage from Newsflare shows the men, most of whom only have one leg, using crutches to engage in the competitive sport. Not one player is struggling to pass, run or block. But being able to play an ordinary game of soccer has provided these men with a new lease on life.
“I never thought I would play football professionally even when I had my two legs,” Alaa al-Aaydi, a father of five, told the Independent. “I was approached by the football team and thought there is no way you can play football on crutches, I was wrong. Never in my life did I ever dream I could be an international athlete — until now.”
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