Osaigbovomwan Iguobaro, Benin
Persons with disabilities are often discriminated against in society. This has ultimately shattered the dreams of these Nigerians from achieving their full potentials.
However, some physically challenged Nigerians living in Edo State have decided to bond together in para-soccer not just necessarily for leisure
The move is to carve a niche and set themselves apart from others who beg for alms to survive.
Besides, they have found opportunity in improving on themselves in the face of the disappointment by the postponement of the National sports Festival, tagged, “Edo 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nigeria presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 had said that the decision was taken in a bid to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
The male para-soccer footballers train every Sunday at Edo State government-owned mini car park at the King Square by Forestry junction in Benin City, the State Capital.
The athelets have shrug off the public ridicule they face in other to make themselves harness their talent as they often hold spectators spell-bound with entertainment.
Traffic is usually low on Sunday around the King square, which is a toll free-day for commuters. The Para-soccer footballers play football to keep fit and entertain passers-bye and other road users.
Checks by our Correspondent revealed that the availability of stable electricity supply at the park, offers illumination that helps to ward-off hoodlums.
The illumination from the electricity supply, makes footballing possible under an extreme hazy weather.
The power supply also offers the traders at the King square shelter to move towards the motor parks.
It was also observed that majority of the footballers are Muslim adherents who observe their religious duties any other day while a few others belong to other faith.
These talented individuals who do not really mind differences, use baskets to make two goal posts while a referee dishes out instruction through the whistle and signs.
Mr. Mustapher Aminu, a member of the para-soccer team said aside from the joy that he derives from the tournament, they hope to earn a living from footballing in the future even when there is no sponsor yet in sight.
He explained that when they started few years ago, many of them did not take the training seriously due to lack of motivation.
According to him, “Whatever your age, ability or fitness level, there is a type of football suitable for anyone who is interested in the game”.
Mustapher who migrated from Jigawa State, said, playing football on a tarred floor, makes the players and the referee to be susceptible to injury and other hazards.
He also said that the team had attempted to use Emokpae and Agbado public primary School fields and other playgrounds which are about 200 metres.
Mustapher said the move have been unsuccessful due to man made restrictions.
“The other big boys don’t allow us to play on their fields. We cannot fight them because we are disabled.
“This place is not good for us. The government can come anytime and drive us away. As you can see, this place is a motor park”, he said.
On Sunday October 18, 2020, the footballers who defied the rains and entertained passengers and pedestrians who were trapped at nearby bus stops around Mission road and Akpakpava roads axis in Benin for over one hour.
Their inability to secure a permanent training ground is a major challenge that the para-soccer footballers will have to contend with for long barring any intervention.
Besides, the little proceed from alms, is not enough to catch the football bug in Nigeria unlike Europe and America where disability football is offered brilliant opportunities.