True champions are those who can overcome adversity and perform to their best of ability. aXrosstheline.com was privileged to speak with a team of true champions that had overcame so many challenges to play the sport that they love, Football!
The Singapore team has done the nation proud by finishing third in the inaugural held in UAE and in the process defeated footballing giants Korea Republic, Jordan and host nation UAE. The 7-a side tournament was organized by the Asian Football Confederation’s new initiative ”football for all” and in a six nation tournament which featured Korea, Iran, Singapore, Australia, UAE and Jordan.
However the road to UAE was anything but smooth sailing for the team. Head coach Mohamed Zainudeen tells us more over this interview. Coach Zai started coaching this group of players since 2009 after being approached by Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) to coach a team of Cerebral Palsy players. The team trained weekly for the past three years prior to the tournament.
Initially the team officials faced the problem of a lack of funds even though it was heavily subsidized by UAE and AFC which covers the accommodation, food and part of the air fare. Coach Zai managed to raise the remaining of the funds through contacts in the local football scene.
Just as many would have thought what can be more difficult since the financial problems has been solved, there is yet another twist. On the evening before the opening game against Jordan, the team was about to leave after relaxing in the swimming pool, first choice keeper AFC Dream Asia Cerebral Palsy Tournament, Peter got cut in his palm after trying to support himself to a standing position. Although second choice keeper Nizam is available, he however cannot stand for a long period of time. The team had a meeting and Coach Zai asked who can play in goal, Mohammed Firdaus, who used to play outfield, put up his hand up. The next day Singapore scored 10 against Jordan, keeping a clean sheet and the rest was history.
Looking back at the tournament, Coach Zai is glad that AFC has provided this opportunity for cerebral palsy players to participate in this tournament which he describes as a life changing experience. He says beyond the results, the squad has learned skills like how to look after themselves and their team mates in a completely different environment, mentally and physically preparing themselves for a high level tournament.
Team captain Khairul Anwar also echoed his coach’s views and says it definitely gave him and his team mates a boost in their confidence not just in football but their daily lives as well. When asked how does it feel when the national anthem was played, Khairul simply said “It’s very hard to put it in words, but I am very proud.” This is what he has to say to people with cerebral palsy who are keen to play football or join the team, “Come out from your home and play!”
Looking forward, both Coach Zai and Khairul would like to have another opportunity to participate in similar tournaments and are currently exploring with different stakeholders on how they can do so. aXrosstheline.com would like to wish the team all the very best and for interested participants to try out with the team can email us for more details. Catch more photos of the team below: