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Amputee players winning on and off the pitch

Thursday, November 15, 2007

With two victories in two games at the Amputee Football World Cup, Turkish players signal that they can achieve many things, but bear in mind that they have a battle every day living in cities that are built ignoring their needs

ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News

The Turkish national team has won its first two games in the first two days of the Amputee Football World Cup in the Mediterranean city of Antalya.

This achievement, which came only weeks after the 55-medal haul by the Turkish squad in the Special Olympics World Games in China, goes to prove that Turkish sportspersons are proving yet again that they can overcome any barriers, not only physical, but also social and economic.

The tournament could not have started any better for Turkey, as the side beat England 2-0 Tuesday and France 5-1 yesterday.

However, it came as no surprise, as many players enjoyed third place in the Champions League earlier this year with the Karagücü sports club.

Karagücü belongs to the Land Forces Command of Turkey and is dominant in Turkey's amputee football scene that has less than 10 teams and is the home of the majority of the Turkish squad's players.

It should be noted that 18 of the 21 players in the squad were injured whilst serving in the Army. Two of the remaining have just graduated from school and one is starting college this year.

Most of them are married and working and playing football can sometimes be a burden on them, as players have their wages cut if they ditch work to attend training.

“A legal arrangement is a must,” said Kamil Yazıcıoğlu, the vice president of Turkish Sport Federation For The Physically Disabled. “If they come to the training camp, they get, say, YTL 400 instead of YTL 1,000 they earn at work. They are playing football at the expense of their wives and children's bread,” he said.

The Turkish national team was founded in 2003 and is playing in international events for three years now. Yazıcıoğlu thinks that more teams should be founded for the sake of amputee football, at least one club in every province, and a league should be created.

The problems are not only on the pitch, there are more, as the roads, pavements or shops and malls should be built keeping amputees in mind. Yazıcıoğlu said amputees face difficulties every day, and conscious planning is needed soon.

Nevertheless, it is obvious that there is a development, “an awakening” as Yazıcıoğlu calls it. The event started well for everybody and England team skipper Steve Johnson, who is also the World Amputee Football Federation President, said, “in 20 years of playing, I have never played in a place like this.”

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