For the Gambia Amputee Football Team, February 2020 was BIRTHDAY TIME!!! Marking a year since their first meetup. Being committed players, the team had an intense training session which included a very physical game of the old boys versus the youngsters; where energy and enthusiasm overcame age and experience.
Following that gruelling match, the post-training celebrations were an opportunity for the team to come together again and celebrate where they’ve come over the past year. It also gave them a chance to enjoy some food, birthday cake (with singing) and a few Vimtos!
It’s hard to believe what they’ve achieved over the past year. From starting off life as four or five amputees playing down a local park, they’ve developed into a polished outfit with 20+ members that could probably have two solid teams and put up a good performance against some of the more seasoned outfits in places like Sierra Leone and Ghana.
This past year has been an opportunity for them to travel to places like Senegal and upriver in The Gambia to Basse where they’ve been able to showcase their talents to locals, disabled persons organisations and members of Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission. It’s not only locals either as in January of 2020, they ended up playing a team of Polish sports journalists at beach soccer, beating them on penalties after the game went to 6-6!
Not only has this allowed the team to show that amputees are able to compete above and beyond those who would traditionally be considered ‘more-able’ than themselves, but it’s inspired other amputees and persons with disabilities. Using sport for advocacy hasn’t stopped there either as members of the team have also tirelessly worked to promote the sport and disability sports more broadly through organising radio presentations, stories in newspapers and discussions at events.
All this passionate play has seen a network fans develop – in both Gambia and beyond – who’ve been tireless in their support and enthusiasm. Whether donating much needed kit and crutches, providing financial support or just cheering the team on over Facebook or during training, there’s a real appreciation for what the team is trying to do and the enthusiasm they players and support staff invest in the sport.
Reflecting on all they’ve been able to do and the support that they’re developing at this one-year birthday, it’s exciting to think about what will be achieved over the next year.