On a busy weekend in Freetown, Sierra Leone, dozens of individuals collect to look at a day soccer match not not like numerous others you’d discover wherever else on the earth. However there’s one placing distinction – these gamers are all amputees.
They’re members of the Single Leg Amputee Sports activities Affiliation (SLASA), a corporation co-founded by pastor Mambud Samai in 2001 after he returned residence towards the tip of Sierra Leone’s lethal civil warfare, which lasted from 1991 to 2002 and killed at the least 50,000 individuals throughout the nation. Hundreds extra had been left with lacking limbs throughout a brutal marketing campaign to terrify the civilian inhabitants.
After coming throughout 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 when they misplaced their limbs and their legs, they don’t have any future, they don’t have any alternative. So, I volunteered myself to offer them confidence,” he mentioned.
Whereas on the refugee camp, he met an American missionary who launched him to a type of adaptive soccer. After exhibiting the amputees tips on how to play, the response was overwhelming and SLASA was shaped, “to offer hope to the amputees, to offer confidence to the amputees, and to permit them to change into ambassadors of peace,” Samai mentioned.
In accordance with the World Amputee Soccer Federation, gamers can not use prosthetics and as an alternative energy throughout the sphere on crutches. Every workforce has seven gamers on the sphere at a time, with outfield gamers solely having one leg and goalkeepers solely having one arm.
A number of SLASA gamers have since gone on to compete in worldwide applications together with the World Amputee Soccer Championships, Amputee Africa Cup of Nations, and the Open European Amputee Soccer Championship.
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“Most of them are actually very proud that they’ll symbolize their nation at worldwide competitions,” Samai mentioned. “They’re contributing one thing again to society.”
Samai says the game shouldn’t be solely a great type of train, but it surely unites gamers and serves as a “remedy” for warfare victims to face their shared trauma. “We attempt to give them hope after which give them the credibility that they’re helpful, they’re vital to society,” he mentioned.
Ali Badara Kamara is a goalkeeper within the SLASA league. He says he’s grateful for the life-changing alternatives he’s obtained. “My mom was afraid (for) me to play soccer as a result of she sees me as an amputee. She thought that if I fell on the ground, I’d have one other downside,” he says. “However SLASA (has) taken me to Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania.”
Kamara is without doubt one of the greater than 80 million individuals with disabilities residing throughout the continent. In accordance with the United Nations, that determine consists of these with psychological well being circumstances, start defects and different bodily impairments. With assistive units typically unavailable or unaffordable, many discover employment laborious to come back by and are left begging on the streets.
Whereas soccer matches solely final 90 minutes, Samai’s newest mission is to discover a approach to assist amputees past the pitch.
“My ardour (is) to make it possible for each life, no matter your incapacity or no matter your background, that you’ll be able to be blissful and you’ll be able to smile on the finish of the day,” Samai mentioned.
To realize that, SLASA works intently with the Nationwide Rehabilitation Middle in Sierra Leone and companions with worldwide organizations like SwissLimbs to supply prosthetics for amputees and prepare native technicians.
In 2018, Samai traveled to Japan to review sustainable agriculture management and neighborhood improvement. Upon his return, he started providing courses on sustainable agriculture via SLASA.
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SLASA additionally assesses members’ training and offers studying sources to these in want. Its objective is to get extra amputees off the streets and supply them with a secure method to make a residing for themselves and their households.
To this point, Samai says SLASA has immediately assisted 350 amputees, and hopes to develop that quantity. The final word objective is to construct a regulation pitch and rehabilitation middle of its personal.
“We wish Sierra Leone to compete with one other international locations by way of improvement,” Samai mentioned. “We consider that disabled individuals shouldn’t be left behind.”
Watch the total episode of African Voices that includes Mambud Samai right here.