Suspect Device

Writing by Patrick Keddie

The Lebanese Landmine Survivors’ Football Team

Lebanese Landmine Survivors Football Team

At first glance there is nothing remarkable about the football team warming up and firing balls towards the goal. After a while there are cries of “yalla, yalla;” two teams assemble and kick-off a practice match. At one point the ball breaks to Mohamed Ali El-Haj and he finds himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper. El-Haj tries to fire off a shot,
but the ball is scuffed – something has gone awry – his leg dangles and then falls off, to guffaws from the other players. El-Haj gives a rueful smile, takes a moment to retrieve and re-attach his prosthesis, and gets back into the game.

El-Haj, 50, has played for the Lebanese Landmine Survivors’ Football Team since its inception in 2001. He is a slightly tubby goal-hanging striker in the mode of Christian Vieri or the Brazilian forward Ronaldo 
in late-career. His only difficulties in playing football are that “sometimes I lose my leg when I’m playing and sometimes I don’t score enough goals,” he laughs. El-Haj can be seen regularly haranguing his team-mates for failing to pass to him in goal-scoring opportunities.

El-Haj lost his left leg below the knee in 1992 after he stepped on a landmine in Beirut that had been planted during Lebanon’s civil war. “For the next year after my accident it was hell for me,” he says. It took him over a year to adjust to having a prosthetic limb.

The team meets every Wednesday evening to train and plays a hugely important role in El-Haj’s life. “I play football thinking that disability 
is not a barrier,” he says. “I can play football even with my artificial limb. Nothing can stop me.”

[Read the rest of the article published by NOW Lebanon here]

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