Recovering from war: amputee soccer in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is home to more than 20 percent of the world’s amputees. There is an entire generation of individuals in this small West African country who had their limbs, lips, ears and other body parts cut off—a result of being attacked by rebel soldiers in the heat of a brutal decade-long civil war. Some of the amputee victims were as young as two years old; some of the soldiers were not much older than their victims.
Mambud Samai is the founder of the Single Leg Amputee Sports Association (SLASA) in Sierra Leone. Mambud, a minister and a refugee in Guinea himself, was repatriated to an internally displaced person (IDP) camp in Sierra Leone, where he found himself initially in the company of 230 amputees. Convinced that everyone has a basic right to a decent standard of living and quality of life, Mambud started SLASA to use amputee soccer (football) to further the social integration of the physically disabled and strengthen their participation in the peace-building process. Through collaboration with streetfootballworld, SLASA became the first organization in Sierra Leone to receive the ultra-durable One World Futbol—a soccer ball that never needs a pump and never goes flat.
Musa, an amputee since age 5, knows firsthand how important soccer is to the thousands of amputees in Sierra Leone. When Musa, now 20, started playing soccer with SLASA, he felt like an equal for the first time in his life. “When I lost my leg, I became so isolated,” he says. “I used to be very alone. When I joined this club, I realized that there are others like me, and I stopped thinking so much about my amputation.”
As part of SLASA, young men including Musa have traveled together to single-leg and amputee soccer tournaments around the world and been named “Peace Ambassadors” in their own countries. Once shunned, these young men are now seen as heroes by their neighbors. Musa is currently studying information technology (IT) in university. Playing amputee soccer has helped him and other SLASA members heal. “When we play together, we feel like heroes,” Musa says. “I don’t think I’m disabled. I am able—but in a different way.”
“Working with One World Play Project directly fits our goals of using soccer for development,” Mambud says. “I’ve always known in my heart that even young men without legs or arms could find healing through the power of soccer.”
SLASA is running a campaign to raise One World Futbols for their players in Sierra Leone. Donate soccer balls to their amputee soccer program today.