Team captain, M'byo Conteh, center, scrimmages with fellow
teammates during a downpour in Freetown. The team had a one week training
camp before departing to the UK.
Fourteen Sierra Leonean amputee football players, the
de-facto National Team, departed for the United Kingdom in late August 2003
to play their English counterparts. The Players lost their limbs during
Sierra Leone's brutal decade-long civil war. Most due to forced amputations.
The team began two years ago as a soccer club founded by amputees who only
wanted an opportunity to play the game they loved. It is evolving into a
tool for self-empowerment in one if the world's poorest counties. All the
players occupy their country's lowest financial strata, have little
opportunity for employment, and have been stigmatized by society, thus
further prohibiting economic and personal advancements. The tour's goal was
to bring attention to their plight and more attention to the programs, actual
and planned, to assist amputees. The players also wanted victory on the
pitch. The tour was organized by "Action for Children in Conflict"
an NGO wanting to increase public awareness of their activities in Africa.
The NGO also viewed the tour as an opportunity to use sport as a therapeutic
vehicle for victims of trauma. The team failed to defeat the UK's National
Amputee team. Time will tell if the exposure they received, both in the UK
and in Sierra Leone, will lead the players, and by extension all amputees in
Sierra Leone, toward a more promising future.