The South Sudan Association of Visually Impaired Persons on Tuesday launched Blind Football Federation and Disability Inclusion Academy in Juba.
With the support of the Light of the World organization in South Sudan, the federation centres its attention on persons with disability, particularly on blind football.
The program which started under the umbrella of Sports for Peace began in 2014 and aimed at spreading peace among the youth.
Later on in 2020, blind football was started with the aim of inclusion of persons with disability in the program.
The program was developed to have a long-lasting impact by transforming the lives of individuals with a disability.
Speaking at the launch of the federation, the chairperson of the South Sudan Association of visually impaired persons, Mr. Luwis Mawut said the program was necessary for creating role models and restoring hopes for individuals with disability.
“When we developed the blind football project with the light for the world, we had the determination that this program will have a long-lasting impact. We have seen this in reality,” Mawut said.
“We have seen the lives of people being transformed, we have seen people who were in isolation now interacting together and playing football,” he said.
“We have seen families who had lost hope that their child will no longer play football because he/she is blind.”
“Through blind football, we have seen people who were once players, when they lost their sight, they lost hopes but now the hope is restored,” said Mawut.
“Through the blind football project, we were directly providing counselling for people who needed a role model and they got the role model among themselves, and hopefully when they will be the role models.”
“You don’t have to be surprised one day that Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi will appear in the team blind football,” he concluded.
For his part, the Deputy Executive Director in the office of the Vice President for Gender and Youth Cluster, David Aleu Deng said the government has taken the issue of disability as a serious matter.
He talks about how the Office of the Vice President for Gender and Youth Cluster is engaged with Persons with Disability.
“The government of South Sudan has taken the issue of disability as a serious matter because many people have been disabled due to the condition we have,” said Aleu.
“Vice President Rebecca Nyandeng has created a department within the office so that she will be able to be briefed on issues of disabilities and programs that impact the lives of people living with a disability.”
“We have done an assessment of the need of people with disability, though we have not conducted an assessment in the country,” he said.
“We have known that many people have been affected and they have a lot of disabilities because of a lot of factors because of the war, climate change and that’s why you see many people living with disability. ”
The head coach of the blind football player, Simon Madol explains how the visually impaired players maneuver around the field when playing.
“Blind Football is a team of visually impaired players and it’s now a big team that started from the ground. Blind football is played by five people on each side plus the goalkeeper,” Madol said.
He added that: “The goalkeeper is always sighted. The players are people who are visually impaired. Their eyes are also covered with blindfolds.”
“We started with only two players and today we are around 85 are trained on blind football,” he said.
“When we talk about blind football, it is something strange, something that has never been in South Sudan before.”
“When you tell someone that I am a coach of blind football, they will ask a lot of questions and when you start answering these questions, you are raising awareness,” said Madol. “And now you letting them know that people that have different types of impairment can really do a lot more than we expect from them.”
The Blind Football project aims at breaking barriers around persons with disability for an inclusive society.
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