CAIRO (Reuters) - A group of Egyptian soccer players have formed a team for one-legged players, hoping to start league for disabled players in the country.
"The Miracle Team," consists of twenty-five players from across Egypt who meet twice a week to train on a pitch in Cairo. While the team began training in freestyle soccer - a non-competitive art where players perform tricks with a ball - they soon decided to aim higher.
"I started bringing the people in and coach Yousry, the team coach, called me to start training me on freestyle football," team captain Mahmoud Ibrahim Tawfik, who lost a leg in a road accident more than 20 years ago, told Reuters.
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"I told him I have another dream of becoming a real life soccer player not just a freestyle footballer who has skills."
The team hope to inspire other disabled Egyptians to take up the sport and eventually establish a federation which could regulate a domestic league for the disabled.
"In each governorate we are asking the players to form a team to spread the game," said team coach Yousry Mohamed Ibrahim.
Despite their enthusiasm, the team faces a raft of challenges: a lack of funding, a paucity of special playing crutches and difficulties finding a regular pitch for training.
Amputee Football has special rules: seven leg-amputee players play on each opposing team, and the goalkeepers must have one arm. Crutches are not allowed to touch the ball and there is no offside rule or limits to substitutions.
There are 42 nations who now have national amputee football federations, according to the World Amputee Football Federation. The next amputee football World Cup is being held in Mexico later this year.
(Reporting by Cairo bureau; Writing by Mark Hanrahan in London; Editing by Peter Graff)