Home News The Pains of Amputee Footballers, By Millicent

The Pains of Amputee Footballers, By Millicent


By Millicent Ifeanyichukwu

The Nigeria Amputee Football Federation (NAFF) was founded in 2005 to give succour to people who are disabled but are keenly interested in the round leather game — football. It is usually played by persons who have one leg or a hand and usually with the aid of crutches.
At inception, the primary objective of the founders was apparently to ensure that amputees with their disability could be useful to themselves instead of begging on the streets.
With that in mind, the game was designed in such a manner that it would keep them busy with competitions from which they could eke out a living all year round, and ultimately gain recognition as sportsmen.
But the lofty objective has yet to be achieved nine years after because of lack of sponsors and dwindling subvention from the government to the sports federations. These factors have prevented NAFF from carrying out many of the activities on its calendar each year.
A journey down memory lane reveals that the sport from 2005 was practiced in Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ondo, Kano, Anambra, Imo and Abuja and has since expanded to other states.
Also in 2005, the federation held national competitions and subsequently attended the Cup of Africa Nations for Amputee Football (CANAF) tournaments in 2007, 2010 and 2011 and 2013.
The football events organised by the Africa Amputee Football Federation (AFFA) were held in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Kenya respectively.
But even in attending those international competitions, they tasked themselves to raise money to augment whatever little was given to them by the sports authorities.
It is noteworthy that the General Overseer of Lagos-based Synagogue Church of All Nations, Ikotun, Prophet T.B. Joshua and his counterpart in the God Bless Nigeria Church, Iponri, Pastor Tony Rapu, also helped them amputeesto participate in the CANAF championships.
During these periods also, NAFF failed to participate in intercontinental competitions including the “Brotherhood Amputee World Championship’’ in Holland in November 2014.
However, in 2014, things headed for the worst when the federation could not pay its affiliation fee to the world body governing amputee football — World Amputee Football Federation (WAFF).
The situation denied them participation in the World Amputee Football World Cup held in Mexico in November; a situation that dashed the hopes of the players who believed that taking part in the competition would have not only given them exposure but enhanced financial status.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that with the quagmire in the federation, the amputee sportsmen were left without hope of making a living from their chosen career as NAFF could not execute any activity on its calendar locally and internationally.
Some of the players expressed their dismay about the state of the sport in the country with the NAFF national team goalkeeper, Michael Chimobi, telling NAN that the state of the game was disheartening.
Chimobi said it was appalling that the sport was not making the expected progress after nine years of existence.
“As an amputee footballer, I am happy when this sport was introduced and the zeal to improve my skill was really there, but there is no encouragement.
“Nine years after, we have not been considered to feature in the National Sports Festival. It is painful because that is a major forum to popularise amputee football,’’ he said.
He added that the inclusion of the sport in the National Sports Festival and having regular competitions would help them to survive on the prize money from such tournaments and sponsorships from companies.
Another member of the national team, Yomi Oyeyemi, said that players did not have kits, crutches, footballs and jerseys to facilitate their commitment to the sport.
Oyeyemi said that “some of us cannot afford the standard crutches and without crutches, it will be difficult to play because of the nature of our disability, it’s a problem’’.
Ugochukwu Obieze, the national team’s striker, appealed to NAFF board of management to be proactive in 2015 and come up with achievable activities in its calendar and ensure that the sport gained the needed awareness.
Obieze, therefore, said that it was through local competitions that corporate bodies, football fans and philanthropists could be attracted to sponsor events in the sport.
“Amputee football needs sponsorship to grow; the board must make sure that a competition is held every quarter, invite corporate bodies, ex-footballers to watch us display our talents.
“They will be inspired to bring out their money and sponsor amputee football and probably donate kits, sponsor some of us and gradually, we will make progress,’’ he said.
He noted that the noble objective of founding the sport for amputees would be defeated if all hands were not on deck to promote the sport, leaving many of them to head back to the streets to beg and most probable live in squalor.
If bold steps are taken to encourage the old players and attract other amputated persons to the game, they would definitely shun begging and other social vices to make a living from the amputee sport.
A coach with NAFF, Victor Nwewe, told NAN that players participate in regular training programmes but there were no local competitions to display their skills and prepare for international tournaments.
Nwewe added that it was imperative for players to be exposed to national competitions as it would boost their zeal and inspire them to greater heights.
For Gbenga Dosumu, an assistant coach, lack of sponsors and non-participation in international tournaments was killing the sport.
Dosumu said the national team was to engage in various friendly matches within the African continent which would have served as a build up to the just-concluded World Cup in Mexico but that never happened.
“We all entered 2014 with high hopes but all to no avail, even ordinary friendly matches with neighboring countries was not possible because of lack of funds,’’ he said.
But NAFF Secretary, Victor Anusa, told NAN the body had a board meeting in February where its programme of activities for the year was discussed and a marketing committee also set up to facilitate their implementation.
Anusa disclosed that donors reneged on their promises of sponsorship of some of the competitions and this was responsible for the dearth of activities.
“We have programmes for this year, which was followed up by our marketing committee to get sponsors for their execution, but it all ended in empty promises,’’ he said.
He, however, assured that the body would, in 2015, take proactive steps to make up for the inactivity of 2014, as well as ensure that the complaints of athletes and officials were thoroughly addressed. (NANFeatures)
**If used, please credit the writer and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

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