The first football team for people with cerebral palsy and motor impairment has been set up in Egypt, with hope that an official federation would be formed in order to fight the stigma that prevents athletes with disabilities in Egypt from pursuing their goals and reaching the stages of global competition.
The team—now counting more than 15 players—was created by Abdallah Essam, who is affected by cerebral palsy himself. “I wish that people with disabilities or those afflicted with cerebral palsy would join us, so that we would have a bigger base to communicate with officials to create a federation and a league here in Egypt,” Essam said to Africa News.
Cerebral palsy is a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by damage that occurs to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth, according to Mayoclinic.
Signs and symptoms appear during infancy or preschool years. In general, cerebral palsy causes impaired movement associated with abnormal reflexes, floppiness or rigidity of the limbs and trunk, abnormal posture, involuntary movements, unsteady walking, or some combination of these.
Ashraf, a member of the squad, also told Africa News that he is happy to finally be able to play with people who have the same disorder. “I started playing football a long time ago, but in this team I found myself playing with full freedom. While playing with my able-bodied friends, there were people who were saying that they need to be careful around me. When playing with my friends here, I do not feel like this at all, and I feel that there is freedom. We are equal and there are no psychological pressures,” he said.
Cerebral palsy competitions have been around for ages, in 1978, the first international cerebral palsy competition was held in Scotland. The sport now exists in more than 60 countries in the world. It was added to Summer Paralympic Games in New York City in 1984, and has been played at every Summer Games since. The sport, however, doesn’t have the exact same rules as FIFA football – there are no offsides, for example, and throw-ins are permitted to be thrown with one hand, among other small modifications such as the length of play, which has been reduced to two thirty-minute halves. The team hopes to create a league in Egypt where all individuals with a motor disability can join in.