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THEY were born with polio, faced a variety of physical challenges while growing up, and are are now helping pioneer a new extreme sport.
A group of Ghanaian polio sufferers love their new activity so much that they hope it will eventually be considered for the Paralympics.
The Ghanaian team, known as The Rolling Rockets, is the subject of a documentary produced by Cape Town-born producer Steven Markovitz called Rollaball. It is directed by South African Eddie Edwards.
The short film tells the story of the team of polio survivors involved in a sport combining skating and soccer, and how they cope with their physical disabilities.
Edwards said he had met the team two years ago.
“I knew they were special,” he said.
“These guys face massive challenges off the pitch, as polio is still stigmatised in Ghana, so many of them live on the streets and beg for a living. But despite all the odds, they’re incredible athletes who deserve to be stars. They have inspired something in me and I believe they’ll inspire many others. Both on and off the field, their stories are legendary.”
Coach Albert Frimpong said the first game of skate soccer was played in Nigeria, but the sport had since spread throughout west Africa. “We played our first international game recently against Nigeria and are hoping to host an Africa cup of nations next year.”
Markovitz has produced a number of award-winning films such as Viva Riva!.
He said international soccer stars, NGO Disabled Peoples’ International, Paralympians, the UN and the Department of Women, Children and People With Disabilities had endorsed the film.
The documentary, made possible through funding by the National Film and Video Foundation of SA, won the Puma Creative Catalyst Award last year and was selected from 571 entries for this year’s Sheffield Documentary Festival.
Associate producer and disability rights activist Shelley Barry said she felt the sport had potential to make it to the Paralympics.
“Skate soccer is one of the most gripping sports I’ve ever seen, so it’s a shame that its inspiring athletes won’t be represented at the games,” Barry said.
She said the film-makers were hoping the movie would help the sport get recognition.