By: Amin George Forji

Sierra Leone began hosting on Friday Feb. 9th, what will go down in history as the pioneer All-African Amputee Football Championship. Colourful choreography to mark the start of the tournament were organised at Freetown’s National Stadium, in the presence of about 8,000 spectators, with banners calling on people to treat the amputees like every other person, without any discrimination. The competition has been organised with the full sponsorship of the world’s football governing body, FIFA, and will run until next Wednesday.

Each team is comprised of seven players notably; six-one legged players and a one-armed goalkeeper.

Three of the five nations taking part in the tournament, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Angola are former war-torn countries, while the two others, Ghana and Nigeria have a legacy of former military dictatorships.

The start of the competition suffered a major setback in that the Nigerian team that was supposed to play the opening game against host, Sierra Leone, but who had chose to come to Freetown from Lagos by bus, had still not arrived by the time the choreography began in the day. Because the team began their journey since three days ago, and further considering that all the players are handicaps and will be quite tired on arrival, the organisers of the competition were contemplating adjourning the match for Saturday, if the team happened to arrive before dusk.

One particularity of the tournament would be that apart from Ghana and Nigeria, most of the players from all the other teams have lost limbs as a consequence of the wars in their various countries. The Nigerian and Ghanaian selections are handicap either as a result of natural consequence or victims from ethnic conflicts.

Nigeria is the only team that has professional players in it’s selection. However, it’s Sierra Leone that has the best experience. They took part in the 2005 Amputee world cup, and emerged third, taking home the bronze medals. They have also had spells in Brazil, Russia and Britain.

Taking to the BBC, the Sierra Leonean coach, Mose Mambu expressed pride and confidence on his boys thus:
“Our two-legged people are failures long since, we want to bring football back to life through these amputees,…I have confidence in my boys, although Nigeria has professional players… we have the technical capability and we are the hosts,” Mambu said, according to the BBC.
(See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6346363.stm )
“We’re here to explain to our African brothers that after war, after conciliation, something positive is happening. We’re like ambassadors of peace,” Mambo was further quoted as saying by Reuters.
(See: http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/africa/02/09/amputee.soccer.reut/ )
The winner of the tournament will represent Africa at the World Amputee Football Championship to take place in Turkey later in the year.
 

[Edited by Simon – Format]

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