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US coach to train South Sudan wheelchair basketball team

RFI 2017-01-11 22:07:34
South Sudan Sport Disabled By RFI Wheelchair basketball at the 2008 Olympic Games. Gallo Images/Getty Images

Coach Jess Markt began training South Sudanese wheelchair basketball players on Wednesday, many of whom lost their legs during the war from independence from Sudan.

The US citizen, who began playing wheelchair basketball at a young age after suffering a spine injury, said he wants to instil confidence in his South Sudanese players “and give them the idea that they can accomplish more than what society thinks they can”.

The coach is in South Sudan at the invitation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which sponsored the training.

The ICRC also organises weekly wheelchair basketball games with South Sudan Wheelchair Basketball Association (SSWBA), according to an Africa News report.

Hope in conflict

Tens of thousands were killed and millions displaced after civil war broke out in South Sudan in 2013, which became the world’s youngest country after gaining independence from Sudan in 2011.

Despite a peace agreement signed in 2015, violence has continued.

This ongoing conflict, according to Markt, is the reason why “there are huge areas in the country where many disabled people … don’t have the chance to play a wheelchair sport like basketball.”

One of Markt’s players, Peter Bol, is a former child soldier who lost his leg during the civil war.

“You know disability is not inability, it’s physical,” he told the AFP.

“If it’s physical, the person with disability can do everything that [the able-bodied] can do,” he added.

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