Members of the "Miracle Team" have a training session in the pitch of El Salam youth center on the outskirts of the capital Cairo, Egypt on March 9, 2018. (Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)
CAIRO, March 10 (Xinhua) -- Hope can work miracles. Challenge, determination and hard work can turn dreams into reality.
Carrying crutches, a group of 40 Egyptian one-legged soccer players have recently formed their "Miracle Team" that aspires to start league for disabled footballers in the country and dreams of joining the amputee football world cup one day.
"We love soccer since childhood. We have a dream of being soccer players but we didn't have a chance," said 28-year-old lawyer Mahmoud Abdo, the team founder and captain, who lost one leg in an accident when he was six.
"After we accidentally watched the famous match between Turkey and England when the former won the 2017 European Amputee Football Championship, our dream was revived. We realized that amputee soccer was recognized worldwide and the dream could come true," the Miracle Team's top player told Xinhua during a training session in the pitch of El Salam youth center on the outskirts of the capital Cairo.
Abdo is the soccer fan whose photo went viral when he was captured jumping skillfully upside down on his crutches out of joy after Egypt's national soccer team scored a narrow win over Congo last October and was qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia after more than two decades of absence.
"The people with special needs have abilities to do unbelievably great things. They can do the impossible if they just get a chance," he said, noting that the idea was not about finding one-legged people who can play soccer but finding those who love it.
Egypt's first official amputee football league is expected to start in July, after the sports minister approved the amputee football as a national sport and promised support for it.
The Miracle Team still calls on the Egyptian Football Association to establish a special committee for amputee football and start to address the world association to enroll the team as Egypt's representative in amputee soccer international championships.
"Our dream is to join the world cup and we promise we will realize it," said the team's administrative manager Khaled Hassan, a veteran disabled swimmer who made it across the English Channel 36 years ago.
"It's really a 'miracle' team because its members have amputated limbs but they are still able to do what they want. This is the challenge and this is the miracle," Hassan told Xinhua after he divided the players into two rival teams during the training session.
An amputee football team consists of seven players, six field players and one goalkeeper. The field players are one-legged and the goalkeeper is one-armed. None of them is allowed to play with their prosthesis.
Seif Mohamed, a goalkeeper of the Miracle Team, says amputee football is a big challenge as field players have to be one-legged. "Soccer is tough for non-disabled people to play, let alone on crutches."
"We need support to do better, for we don't have a fixed pitch, adequate training tools, uniforms, etc. We provide for everything by ourselves," he said, adding, "All people with special needs are ambitious. They face the difficult side of life with a confident smile and overcome it."
Players come from remote provinces to join the Miracle Team training. They have to wake up at dawn at least once a week to catch the training in Cairo in the early morning.
Abdullah Mostafa, 23, came from Minufiya province north of Cairo to join his 11th training session with the team and realize his childhood dream of becoming a soccer player.
"Although I come from Minufiya, I am the first to arrive to the pitch as I always come an hour before the training starts. It's my dream and I work hard to realize it," Mostafa said, noting that he has been playing football since he was 12.
Some friends and family members of the Miracle Team came to watch the training and provide support for their loved ones.
"I am so proud of my father. He does not only join the Miracle Team but he's a bodybuilder too. He did not stop playing football despite the accident that amputated his leg 12 years ago," Ahmed Ibrahim, a boy who was watching the training, told Xinhua.