Kenyan Amputee Football, Valentine FC; A life without Limits

Coach Mehmet Turkes’ taking his team through the paces

Most of us know football to be a beautiful game- yes, very beautiful but not until you are introduced to amputee football. This is football played by people who are who are ‘abbreviated’ at or near the ankle or wrist.
In my many travels thus I was glad to meet an amputee football team in Nairobi Kenya- Valentine FC. Valentine FC is one of the few amputee football clubs in this country but also has most of its members doubling up as the National Amputee Football players.
Training at Pumwani Secondary School grounds – opposite the Pumwani Police Post; “The team averages 20 players but with several commitments here and there- most of the time training is never full house. “ says the captain Dalmas Otienoh whom I meet immediately after the training session followed up by a session with their coach.
When I ask about how long the team has been around, it’s a perfect start to what later was an eye-opening discussion. “Long- yes long enough, three years plus” he replies as he signals with his fingers. I’m further intrigued to know how they started and how they got all these amputees together to start playing football.
“We started at some grounds near state house before we moved here. It’s not easy getting all these guys together. Most of the times- they are busy looking for money to fend for themselves and their families and it takes lots of sacrifice to have all these guys here together”
I’m at this point amazed at how then they even get equipment to train. The players all have crutches, there are around 6 balls lying around, 2 simple goal posts- though I later learn they are not standard goal posts and even a few extra boots lying around.
“He (pointing to the coach- a certain white man) provides most of them. He loves this team- he is actually the god-father of this project. He got us these jerseys, crutches, the balls you see here and even helped us in registering the federation”
This is getting interesting- isn’t it? Yes.
I at this point learn the white man is actually called Mehmet Turkes’ a Turkish national who is also an employee of the Turkish airlines but now based in Nairobi. He purely does this out of goodwill and is a former player in his country. Age seems to have caught up and helping train this group gets him absolute satisfaction. He’s not an amputee himself but has vast knowledge of the game and would love to see this team and his dream go places.
Scouting

I’m a poor interviewer but as I did learn- this team has players from all ages. A few grey hair’s here and there but one who stood out was “BUFALLO” as he loves to call himself. He’s a taxi driver and takes pride in offering a few of his team mates a lift after training. He is also the unofficial “CHAIRMAN” of the group and quickly pokes into our talk as he feels left out.

I’m at this point interested in knowing where this group get’s all these players from. Do they have scouts all over the country, county or all over Nairobi? The question is met by a firm NO from the duo and I quickly coil into my little corner.
“We just get players from anywhere- everywhere” replies Dalmas. Most players are people who just loved the idea and joined in. The team also has 2 players who are high-school students who because of school matters couldn’t make it for training but the greatest they both remember was the Domestic Cup that was held by the club somewhere in January that involved amputee sides from all over the country.
“So many of them turned up- we had lots of amputees here and a few of them showed interest in the game”.
I ask if they’ve ever thought of visiting special institutions for amputee players. YES is a good reply but what follows is a wake-up call. “So much money is needed to get them to training which for now we are not able to afford”
This is plain truth- nobody needs special glasses to see this but they remain grateful to the ministry of sports who helped organise the domestic cup- which of course they delight in saying was won by the Nairobi side.
 Federation 

Kenya Amputee Football Federation offices at Pumwani Secondary Grounds

This is real good organisation I must agree- the amputee football association in Kenyan has a football federation of their own known as the KENYA AMPUTEE FOOTBALL FEDERATION.
A beautiful building standing at the corner of the Pumwani Secondary School pitch might be the only naked structure representing this beautiful group of people but I’m told it’s more than that. The players take great pride in this society. From being not known by anybody- they are now recognised by the Football Federation of Kenyan whom they intend to work with in the future and also they plan to Amputee African Nations Cup 2013.
Quite a milestone I must say- at a time when the government is thinking of bidding for the 2019 edition of the AFCON.
It’s at this moment brought to my attention that a delegation of two, (The Secretary and the treasurer) earlier this year made a visit to Ghana to plan on the same. Details are still yet to confirm where the edition will be hosted as plans are not yet finalised but I’m told- Kenya is the host and plans are underway to build a formidable team to take on the rest of Africa before the tourney kicks off.
The Future
“So much more is yet to be done” Dalmas says as he clasps his hands.  He seems to be literally looking into the future, I’m not going to try and see but here is a face beaming with optimism.
“Can’t we have a professional league, can’t we have our players moving to other countries to play professionally, can’t we even dream to host bigger competitions like the world cup?” I’m amazed. I can only have one reply- YES.
For now what stands between this group of talented guys and glory is finances, serious sponsorship and the future might just be here.
His Final words- “We can’t afford to give up- we must be strong. For the game, for us, for the future of the sport”
CONTACTS
Twitter; @Valentine_Fc
DID YOU KNOW?
  • An amputee is defined as someone who
    is ‘abbreviated’ at or near the ankle or wrist .
  • Outfield players may have two hands but
    only one leg, whereas goalkeepers may have two feet but only one hand
  • The game is played with metal crutches and without prostheses, the only exception being that bi-lateral amputees may play with a prosthesis
  • Players may not use crutches to advance, control or block the ball. Such an action will be penalised in the same way as a hand-ball infringement. However, incidental contact between crutch and ball is tolerated
  • Players may not use their residual limbs to voluntarily advance, control or block the ball. Such an action will be penalised in the same way as a hand-ball infringement. However, incidental contact between residual limb and ball is tolerated
  • Shin pads must be worn
  • Use of a crutch against a player will lead to ejection from the game and a penalty kick for the opposing team

The pitch
70 x 60 metres maximum
The goals
2.2 metres maximum (height) x 5 metres maximum (width) x 1 metre (depth)
The ball
FIFA standard
Duration of play
Games consist of two 25-minute halves (variable according to the tournament), with a ten-minute rest period in between
Time-out
Both teams are allowed a two-minute time-out per game
Offside
Offside rules do not apply in amputee football
Number of players
International rules stipulate that a team be made up of six outfield players and a goalkeeper. However, certain tournaments require teams of four outfield players plus goalkeeper, as was the case in Sierra Leone
Goalkeeper
A goalkeeper is not permitted to leave his or her area. Should this occur deliberately, the goalkeeper will be ejected from the game and the opposing team awarded a penalty kick
Substitutions
An unlimited amount of substitutions can be made, at any point during the game

Here is a link to help you learn more about World Amputee Football http://www.worldamputeefootball.com/ 

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