Friday, October 15, 2010

First Haitian amputee soccer team readies for World Cup of Amputee Soccer in Argentina

From WFAA-TV in Dallas:

FRISCO, Texas — A group of soccer players is in Frisco, training for the pinnacle of their sport. But as crazy as it sounds, they've never played a single organized game.

The men are from earthquake-ravaged Haiti. They have come to Texas to fulfill a dream beyond their wildest imagination.

The team was formed only two months ago. Most of them are just beginning to learn the game. But on Oct. 16, they'll be in Argentina competing with the best in the world.

They are the first Haitian team to play for the World Cup of Amputee Soccer.

Every player has a powerful story. Three of them suffered horrific injuries when Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake in January.

Francois McKewdy was working in a T-shirt factory when the quake hit. He was trapped under heavy rubble.

"They handed me a saw, and I began to cut my own leg. And when the pain became unbearable, one of my friends finished cutting the leg," he said.

Arriel Valembrun lost his arm in the earthquake. Like all the players, he welcomes the challenge of overcoming his disability to compete with the world's best.

"Amputee soccer takes so much skill," he said. "Not having a limb as a goalkeeper or not having a leg as a fielder — it's incredibly difficult. We realize it's a huge challenge for us as we go to Argentina."

The team is serving as an inspiration to Haitians in a country where people with disabilities are often mistreated.

"People were shunned, spit upon, cast aside," said Fred Sorrells, president of the International Institute of Sport. "That's what so many people feared when they became disabled because of the earthquake."

The men who will compete for the World Cup are much more than just good soccer players; they are a symbol of the resiliency of the human spirit.

FC Dallas is hosting the Haitian team.