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Copyright 2000 The Seattle Times Company
Local News : Tuesday, November 14, 2000

Amputee with cancer takes new position on soccer team
By Lisa Rivera
Seattle Times staff reporter

When the U.S. Amputee Soccer Team suited up for Day One of the World Cup 2000 Amputee Soccer Championships at Arena Sports yesterday, Steve Wilber, a 15-year member, suited up, too.

But he didn't stretch, he didn't warm up, and he didn't even take off his prosthetic leg - a rule of the game.

Instead, Wilber came to the game ready to take his shots - not with his able right leg - but with his camera.

Donations welcome
Donations to support the amputee-soccer team may be made in the name of the team, the U.S. National Amputee Soccer Team, in care of the Washington State Soccer Association at 7802 N.E. Bothell Way, Kenmore, WA 98028. For information, call 425-485-7855.

A defensive player since 1985, Wilber has been out of the game since June, when he was diagnosed with throat cancer.

But that hasn't stopped him from remaining an active part of the team.

"We were able to tap into additional talents that he has, which is photography," said Bill Barry, the U.S. team's first coach and now its ambassador.

Just like every member of the nontraditional soccer team, Wilber is an inspiration to amputee victims around the world. These are men who have taken the "dis" out of "disabled."

As Wilber fights his latest battle, he has given triumph new meaning.

"He's an encouragement to keep going and keep fighting," said Vishwa Pillay, the team's first-string goalie and a 14-year member.

Wilber was shot in the arm while fighting in Vietnam but made it home alive and well.

After his return, he was hit by a drunken driver while riding his motorcycle and lost his left leg. He regained heart and hope through the amputee soccer team.

And now, after seven weeks of radiation therapy, Wilber plans to be back on the field in one month. "I wish I could be out there now, but I know if I was out there I wouldn't be up to par," he said.

On the field or not, Wilber won't be pulled from the roster.

"It's something new to conquer, and I think that as a family we can help him overcome it," said co-Captain Ignacio "Nacho" Medrano, who lost his right leg to cancer in 1991.

As well as offering support and encouragement, the team is a source of humor for Wilber.

"I'm doing the same thing but I don't have that situation," said Rick Hofmann, a three-year teammate who also takes photos from the sidelines. "I'm just old and fat."

As the U.S. team went up against Ukraine yesterday, the matchup was intense. Players ran, roaring with all the determination they could muster.

On the sidelines, Wilber was with them - in his own quiet way - behind his camera lens.

And every now and then, when the moment was right, he lifted his camera and clicked one for the team.

Lisa Rivera's phone message number is 206-464-3665. Her e-mail address is

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